Skip to main content

Full text of "Hopes and fears for art"

See other formats

Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library 


Gift of 
Alice Baldwin Beer 

Smithsonian Institution Libraries 








91 AND 93 Fifth Avenue, New York 



C4i A\ 

University Press: 
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge 




The Lesser Arts , i 

The Art of the People 38 

The Beauty of Life 71 

Making the Best of it 114 

The Prospects of Architecture in Civili- 
zation ........ 169 



Hereafter I hope in another lecture to have the 
pleasure of laying before you an historical survey 
of the lesser, or as they are called the Decorative 
Arts, and I must confess it would have been pleas- 
anter to me to have begun my talk with you by 
entering at once upon the subject of the history of 
this great industry ; but, as I have something to 
say in a third lecture about various matters con- 
nected with the practice of Decoration among our- 
selves in these days, I feel that I should be in a 
false position before you, and one that might lead 
to confusion, or overmuch explanation, if I did not 
let you know what I think on the nature and scope 
of these arts, on their condition at the present time, 
and their outlook in times to come. In doing this 
it is like enough that I shall say things with which 
you will very much disagree ; I must ask you there- 
fore from the outset to believe that whatever I 
may blame or whatever I may praise, I neither, 

2 The Lesser Arts. 

when I think of what history has been, am inclined 
to lament the past, to despise the present, or despair 
of the future ; that I beheve all the change and stir 
about us is a sign of the world's life, and that it will 
lead — by ways, indeed, of which we have no guess 
— to the bettering of all mankind. 

Now as to the scope and nature of these Arts 
I have to say, that though when I come more 
into the details of my subject I shall not meddle 
much with the great art of Architecture, and less 
still with the great arts commonly called Sculp- 
ture and Painting, yet I cannot in my own mind 
quite sever them from those lesser so-called Deco- 
rative Arts, which I have to speak about : it is 
only in latter times, and under the most intricate 
conditions of life, that they have fallen apart from 
one another ; and I hold that, when they are so 
parted, it is ill for the Arts altogether : the lesser 
ones become trivial, mechanical, unintelligent, in- 
capable of resisting the changes pressed upon 
them by fashion or dishonesty ; while the greater, 
however they may be practised for a while by 
men of great minds and wonder-working hands, 
unhelped by the lesser, unhelped by each other, 
are sure to lose their dignity of popular arts, and 
become nothing but dull adjuncts to unmeaning 
pomp, or ingenious toys for a few rich and idle 

However, I have not undertaken to talk to you 
of Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, in the 

The Lesser Arts. 3 

narrower sense of those words, since, most unhap- 
pily as I think, these master-arts, these arts more 
specially of the intellect, are at the present day 
divorced from decoration in its narrower sense. 
Our subject is that great body of art, by means of 
which men have at all times more or less striven to 
beautify the familiar matters of every-day life: a 
wide subject, a great industry ; both a great part 
of the history of the world, and a most helpful 
instrument to the study of that history. 

A very great industry indeed, comprising the 
crafts of house-building, painting, joinery and 
carpentry, smiths' work, pottery and glass-making, 
weaving, and many others: a body of art most 
important to the public in general, but still more 
so to us handicraftsmen ; since there is scarce any- 
thing that they use, and that we fashion, but it has 
always been thought to be unfinished till it has 
had some touch or other of decoration about it 
True it is that in many or most cases we have got 
so used to this ornament, that we look upon it as 
if it had grown of itself, and note it no more than 
the mosses on the dry sticks with which we light 
our fires. So much the worse ! for there is the 
decoration, or some pretence of it, and it has, or 
ought to have, a use and a meaning. For, and 
this is at the root of the whole matter, everything 
made by man's hands has a form, which must be 
either beautiful or ugly ; beautiful if it is in accord 
with Nature, and helps her ; ugly if it is discordant 

4 The Lesser Arts. 

with Nature, and thwarts her ; it cannot be indif- 
ferent: we, for our parts, are busy or sluggish, 
eager or unhappy, and our eyes are apt to get 
dulled to this eventfulness of form in those things 
which we are always looking at. Now it is one 
of the chief uses of decoration, the chief part of its 
alliance with nature, that it has to sharpen our 
dulled senses in this matter : for this end are those 
wonders of intricate patterns interwoven, those 
strange forms invented, which men have so long 
delighted in : forms and intricacies that do not 
necessarily imitate nature, but in which the hand 
of the craftsman is guided to work in the way that 
she does ; till the web, the cup, or the knife, look 
as natural, nay as lovely, as the green field, the 
river bank, or the mountain flint. 

To give people pleasure in the things they must 
perforce tiscy that is one great ofhce of decoration ; 
to give people pleasure in the things they must 
perforce make, that is the other use of it. 

Does not our subject look important enough 
now t I say that without these arts, our rest 
would be vacant and uninteresting, our labor mere 
endurance, mere wearing away of body and mind. 

As for that last use of these arts, the giving us 
pleasure in our work, I scarcely know how to speak 
strongly enough of it ; and yet if I did not know 
the value of repeating a truth again and again, I 
should have to excuse myself to you for saying 
any more about this, when I remember how a 

The Lesser Arts. 5 

great man now living has spoken of it : I mean 
my friend Professor John Ruskin : if you read the 
chapter in the 2nd vol. of his Stones of Venice 
entitled, * On the Nature of Gothic, and the Office 
of the Workman therein,' you will read at once the 
truest and the most eloquent words that can pos- 
sibly be said on the subject. What I have to say 
upon it can scarcely be more than an echo of his 
words, yet I repeat there is some use in reiterating 
a truth, lest it be forgotten ; so I will say this 
much further : we all know what people have said 
about the curse of labor, and what heavy and 
grievous nonsense are the more part of their words 
thereupon; whereas indeed the real curses of 
craftsmen have been the curse of stupidity, and the 
curse of injustice from within and from without: 
no, I cannot suppose there is anybody here who 
would think it either a good life, or an amusing 
one, to sit with one's hands before one doing noth- 
ing — to live like a gentleman, as fools call it. 

Nevertheless there is dull work to be done, and 
a weary business it is setting men about such work, 
and seeing them through it, and I would rather do 
the work twice over with my own hands than have 
such a job : but now only let the arts which we are 
talking of beautify our labor, and be widely spread, 
intelligent, well understood both by the maker and 
the user, let them grow in one word popular, and 
there will be pretty much an end of dull work and 
its wearing slavery ; and no man will any longer 

6 The Lesser Arts. 

have an excuse for talking about the curse of labor, 
no man will any longer have an excuse for evading 
the blessing of labor. I believe there is nothing 
that will aid the world's progress so much as the 
attainment of this ; I protest there is nothing in 
the world that I desire so much as this, wrapped 
up, as I am sure it is, with changes political and 
social, that in one way or another we all desire. 

Now if the objection be made, that these arts 
have been the handmaids of luxury, of tyranny, and 
of superstition, I must needs say that it is true in 
a sense ; they have been so used, as many other 
excellent things have been. But it is also true 
that, among some nations, their most vigorous and 
freest times have been the very blossoming times 
of art : while at the same time, I must allow that 
these decorative arts have flourished among op- 
pressed peoples, who have seemed to have no hope 
of freedom : yet I do not think that we shall be 
wrong in thinking that at such times, among such 
peoples, art, at least, was free ; when it has not 
been, when it has really been gripped by super- 
stition, or by luxury, it has straightway begun to 
sicken under that grip. Nor must you forget that 
when men say popes, kings, and emperors built 
such and such buildings, it is a mere way of 
speaking. You look in your history-books to see 
who built Westminster Abbey, who built St. Sophia 
at Constantinople, and they tell you Henry III., 
Justinian the Emperor. Did they } or, rather, men 

The Lesser Arts. 7 

like you and me, handicraftsmen, who have left no 
names behind them, nothing but their work ? 

Now as these arts call people's attention and 
interest to the matters of every-day life in the 
present, so also, and that I think is no little 
matter, they call our attention at every step to 
that history, of which, I said before, they are so 
great a part ; for no nation, no state of society, 
however rude, has been wholly without them : nay, 
there are peoples not a few, of whom we know 
scarce anything, save that they thought such and 
such forms beautiful. So strong is the bond be- 
tween history and decoration, that in the practice 
of the latter we cannot, if we would, wholly 
shake off the influence of past times over what 
we do at present. I do not think it is too much 
to say that no man, however original he may be, 
can sit down to-day and draw the ornament of a 
cloth, or the form of an ordinary vessel or piece 
of furniture, that will be other than a development 
or a degradation of forms used hundreds of years 
ago ; and these, too, very often, forms that once 
had a serious meaning, though they are now 
become little more than a habit of the hand ; 
forms that were once perhaps the mysterious 
symbols of worships and beliefs now little re- 
membered or wholly forgotten. Those who have 
diligently followed the delightful study of these 
arts are able as if through windows to look upon 
the life of the past : — the very first beginnings 

8 The Lesser Arts. 

of thought among nations whom we cannot even 
name ; the terrible empires of the ancient East ; 
the free vigor and glory of Greece ; the heavy- 
weight, the firm grasp of Rome ; the fall of her 
temporal Empire which spread so wide about the 
world all that good and evil which men can never 
forget, and never cease to feel ; the clashing of 
East and West, South and North, about her rich 
and fruitful daughter Byzantium ; the rise, the 
dissensions, and the waning of Islam ; the wander- 
ings of Scandinavia ; the Crusades ; the foundation 
of the States of modern Europe ; the struggles of 
free thought with ancient dying system — with all 
these events and their meaning is the history of 
popular art interwoven ; with all this, I say, the 
careful student of decoration as an historical 
industry must be familiar. When I think of this, 
and the usefulness of all this knowledge, at a time 
when history has become so earnest a study 
amongst us as to have given us, as it were, a new 
sense : at a time when we so long to know the 
reality of all that has happened, and are to be put 
off no longer with the dull records of the battles 
and intrigues of kings and scoundrels, — I say when 
I think of all this, I hardly know how to say that 
this interweaving of the Decorative Arts with the 
history of the past is of less importance than their 
dealings with the life of the present : for should 
not these memories also be a part of our daily 
life ? 

The Lesser Arts. 9 

And now let me recapitulate a little before I go 
further, before we begin to look into the condition 
of the arts at the present day. These arts, I have 
said, are part of a great system invented for the 
expression of a man's delight in beauty: all peo- 
ples and times have used them ; they have been 
the joy of free nations, and the solace of oppressed 
nations ; religion has used and elevated them, has 
abused and degraded them ; they are connected 
with all history, and are clear teachers of it ; and, 
best of all, they are the sweeteners of human labor, 
both to the handicraftsman, whose life is spent in 
working in them, and to people in general who are 
influenced by the sight of them at every turn of the 
day's work: they make our toil happy, our rest 

And now if all I have said seems to you but 
mere open-mouthed praise of these arts, I must say 
that it is not for nothing that what I have hitherto 
put before you has taken that form. 

It is because I must now ask you this question : 
All these good things — will you have them } will 
you cast them from you.? 

Are you surprised at my question — you, most 
of whom, like myself, are engaged in the actual 
practice of the arts that are, or ought to be, 
popular } 

In explanation, I must somewhat repeat what I 
have already said. Time was when the mystery 
and wonder of handicrafts were well acknowledged 

lo The Lesser Arts. 

by the world, when imagination and fancy mingled 
with all things made by man ; and in those days all 
handicraftsmen were artists, as we should now call 
them. But the thought of man became more intri- 
cate, more difficult to express ; art grew a heavier 
thing to deal with, and its labor was more divided 
among great men, lesser men, and little men ; till 
that art, which was once scarce more than a rest of 
body and soul, as the hand cast the shuttle or 
swung the hammer, became to some men so serious 
a labor, that their working lives have been one 
long tragedy of hope and fear, joy and trouble. 
This was the growth of art : like all growth, it was 
good and fruitful for awhile ; like all fruitful growth, 
it grew into decay : like all decay of what was once 
fruitful, it will grow into something new. 

Into decay; for as the arts sundered into the 
greater and the lesser, contempt on one side, care- 
lessness on the other arose, both begotten of igno- 
rance of that philosophy of the Decorative Arts, a 
hint of which I have tried just now to put before 
you. The artist came out from the handicrafts- 
men, and left them without hope of elevation, while 
he himself was left without the help of intelligent, 
industrious sympathy. Both have suffered ; the 
artist no less than the workman. It is with art as 
it fares with a company of soldiers before a redoubt, 
when the captain runs forward full of hope and 
energy, but looks not behind him to see if his men 
are following, and they hang back, not knowing 

The Lesser Arts. 1 1 

why they are brought there to die. The captain's 
life is spent for nothing, and his men are sullen 
prisoners in the redoubt of Unhappiness and 

I must in plain words say of the Decorative 
Arts, of all the arts, that it is not so much that we 
are inferior in them to all who have gone before us, 
but rather that they are in a state of anarchy and 
disorganization, which makes a sweeping change 
necessary and certain. 

So that again I ask my question, All that good 
fruit which the arts should bear, will you have it > 
will you cast it from you } Shall that sweeping 
change that must come, be the change of loss or 
of gain t 

We who believe in the continuous life of the 
world, surely we are bound to hope that the change 
will bring us gain and not loss, and to strive to 
bring that gain about. 

Yet how the world may answer my question, 
who can say } A man in his short life can see but 
a little way ahead, and even in mine wonderful and 
unexpected things have come to pass. I must 
needs say that therein lies my hope rather than in 
all I see going on round about us. Without dis- 
puting that if the imaginative arts perish, som.e 
new thing, at present unguessed of, may be put for- 
ward to supply their loss in men's lives, I cannot 
feel happy in that prospect, nor can I believe that 
mankind will endure such a loss for ever : but in the 

1 2 The Lesser Arts. 

meantime the present state of the arts and tlieir 
dealings with modern life and progress seem to ne 
to point in appearance at least to this immediate 
future; that the world, which has for a long tin.e 
busied itself about other matters than the arts, and 
has carelessly let them sink lower and lower, till 
many not uncultivated men, ignorant of what they 
once were, and hopeless of what they might yet 
be, look upon them with mere contempt ; that the 
world, I say, thus busied and hurried, will one day 
wipe the slate, and be clean rid in her impatience 
of the whole matter with all its tangle and trouble. 

And then — what then ? 

Even now amid the squalor of London it is hard 
to imagine what it will be. Architecture, Sculp- 
ture, Painting, with the crowd of lesser arts that 
belong to them, these, together with Music and 
Poetry, will be dead and forgotten, will no longer 
excite or amuse people in the least : for, once more, 
we must not deceive ourselves ; the death of one 
art means th€ death of all ; the only difference in 
their fate will be that the luckiest will be eaten the 
last — the luckiest, or the unluckiest : in all that 
has to do with beauty the invention and ingenuity 
of man will have come to a dead stop ; and all the 
while Nature will go on with her eternal recurrence 
of lovely changes : spring, summer, autumn, and 
winter ; sunshine, rain, and snow, storm and fair 
weather ; dawn, noon, and sunset, day and night 
— ^ever bearing witness against man that he has 

The Lesser Arts. 1 3 

deliberately chosen ugliness instead of beauty, and 
to live where he is strongest amidst squalor or 
blank emptiness. 

You see, sirs, we cannot quite imagine it; any 
more, perhaps, than our forefathers of ancient 
London, living in the pretty carefully whitened 
houses, with the famous church and its huge spire 
rising above them, — than they, passing about the 
fair gardens running down to the broad river, could 
have imagined a whole county or more covered 
over with hideous hovels, big, middle-sized, and 
little, which should one day be called London. 

Sirs, I say that this dead blank of the arts that 
I more than dread is difficult even now to imagine ; 
yet I fear that I must say that if it does not come 
about, it will be owing to some turn of events which 
we cannot at present foresee : but I hold that if it 
does happen, it will only last for a time, that it will 
be but a burning up of the gathered weeds, so that 
the field may bear more abundantly. I hold that 
men would wake up after a while, and look round 
and find the dulness unbearable, and begin once 
more inventing, imitating, and imagining, as in 
earlier days. 

That faith comforts me, and I can say calmly if 
the blank space must happen, it must, and amidst 
its darkness the new seed must sprout. So it has 
been before : first comes birth, and hope scarcely 
conscious of itself; then the flower and fruit of 
mastery, with hope more than conscious enough, 

14 The Lesser Arts. 

passing into insolence, as decay follows ripeness ; 
and then — the new birth again. 

Meantime it is the plain duty of all who look 
seriously on the arts to do their best to save the 
world from what at the best will be a loss, the 
result of ignorance and unwisdom ; to prevent, in 
fact, that most discouraging of all changes, the 
supplying the place of an extinct brutality by a 
new one ; nay, even if those who really care for 
the arts are so weak and few that they can do 
nothing else, it may be their business to keep alive 
some tradition, some memory of the past, so that 
the new life when it comes may not waste itself 
more than enough in fashioning wholly new forms 
for its new spirit. 

To what side then shall those turn for help, who 
really understand the gain of a great art in the 
world, and the loss of peace and good life that must 
follow from the lack of it 1 I think that they must 
begin by acknowledging that the ancient art, the 
art of unconscious intelligence, as one should call 
it, which began without a date, at least so long ago 
as those strange and masterly scratchings on mam- 
moth-bones and the like found but the other day in 
the drift — that this art of unconscious intelligence 
is all but dead ; that what little of it is left lingers 
among half-civilized nations, and is growing coarser, 
feebler, less intelligent year by year; nay, it is 
mostly at the mercy of some commercial accident, 
such as the arrival of a few shiploads of European 

The Lesser Arts. 1 5 

dye-stuffs or a few dozen orders from European 
merchants : this they must recognize, and must 
hope to see in time its place filled by a new art of 
conscious intelligence, the birth of wiser, simpler, 
freer ways of life than the world leads now, than 
the world has ever led. 

I said, to see this in time ; I do not mean to say 
that our own eyes will look upon it : it may be so 
far off, as indeed it seems to some, that many 
would scarcely think it worth while thinking of : 
but there are some of us who cannot turn our faces 
to the wall, or sit deedless because our hope seems 
somewhat dim ; and, indeed, I think that while the 
signs of the last decay of the old art with all the 
evils that must follow in its train are only too 
obvious about us, so on the other hand there are 
not wanting signs of the new dawn beyond that 
possible night of the arts, of which I have before 
spoken : this sign chiefly, that there are some few 
at least who are heartily discontented with things 
as they are, and crave for something better, or at 
least some promise of it — this best of signs : for I 
suppose that if some half-dozen men at any time 
earnestly set their hearts on something coming 
about which is not discordant with nature, it will 
come to pass one day or other ; because it is not by 
accident that an idea comes into the heads of a 
few; rather they are pushed on, and forced to 
speak or act by something stirring in the heart of 
the world which would otherwise be left without 

1 6 The Lesser Arts. 

By what means then shall those work who long 
for reform in the arts, and whom shall they seek to 
kindle into eager desire for possession of beauty, 
and better still, for the development of the faculty 
that creates beauty ? 

People say to me often enough : If you want to 
make your art succeed and flourish, you must 
make it the fashion : a phrase which I confess 
annoys me : for they mean by it that I should 
spend one day over my work to two days in trying 
to convince rich, and supposed influential people, 
that they care very much for what they really do 
not care in the least, so that it may happen accord- 
ing to the proverb : Bell-wether took the leap^ and 
we all went over: well, such advisers are right if 
they are content with the thing lasting but a little 
while ; say till you can make a little money — if 
you don't get pinched by the door shutting too 
quickly : otherwise they are wrong : the people 
they are thinking of have too many strings to their 
bow and can turn their backs too easily on a thing 
that fails, for it to be safe work trusting to their 
whims : it is not their fault, they cannot help it, 
but they have no chance of spending time enough 
over the arts to know anything practical of them, 
and they must of necessity be in the hands of 
those who spend their time in pushing fashion this 
way and that for their own advantage. 

Sirs, there is no help to be got out of these 
latter, or those who let themselves be led by them : 

The Lesser Arts. 1 7 

the only real help for the decorative arts must 
come from those who work in them ; nor must 
they be led, they must lead. 

You whose hands make those things that should 
be works of art, you must be all artists, and good 
artists too, before the public at large can take real 
interest in such things ; and when you have become 
so, I promise you that you shall lead the fashion ; 
fashion shall follow your hands obediently enough. 

That is the only way in which we can get a 
supply of intdJigent-^ popular art: a few artists of 
the kind so called now, what can they do working 
in the teeth of difficulties thrown in their way by 
what is called Commerce, but which should be 
called greed of money ? working helplessly among 
the crowd of those who are ridiculously called 
manufacturers, ue, handicraftsmen, though the more 
part of them never did a stroke of hand-work in 
their lives, and are nothing better than capitalists 
and salesmen. What can these grains of sand do, 
I say, amidst the enormous mass of work turned 
out every year which professes in some way to be 
decorative art, but the decoration of which no one 
heeds except the salesmen who have to do with it, 
and are hard put to it to supply the cravings of 
the public for something new, not for something 

The remedy, I repeat, is plain if it can be applied ; 
the handicraftsman, left behind by the artist when 
the arts sundered, must come up with him, must 

1 8 The Lesser Arts, 

work side by side with him : apart from the difference 
between a great master and a scholar, apart from the 
differences of the natural bent of men's minds, which 
would make one man an imitative, and another an 
architectural or decorative artist, there should be 
no difference between those employed on strictly 
ornamental work ; and the body of artists dealing 
with this should quicken with their art all makers 
of things into artists also, in proportion to the 
necessities and uses of the things they would 

I know what stupendous difficulties, social and 
economical, there are in the way of this ; yet I think 
that they seem to be greater than they are : and 
of one thing I am sure, that no real living decora- 
tive art is possible if this is impossible. 

It is not impossible, on the contrary it is cer- 
tain to come about, if you are at heart desirous to 
quicken the arts ; if the world will, for the sake of 
beauty and decency, sacrifice some of the things it 
is so busy over (many of which I think are not very 
worthy of its trouble) art will begin to grow again ; 
as for those difficulties above mentioned, some of 
them I know will in any case melt away before 
the steady change of the relative conditions of men ; 
the rest, reason and resolute attention to the laws of 
nature, which are also the laws of art, will disposQ of 
little by little : once more, the way will not be far 
to seek, if the will be with us. 

Yet, granted the will, and though the way lies 

The Lesser Arts. 19 

ready to us, we must not be discouraged if the 
journey seem barren enough at first, nay, not even 
if things seem to grow worse for a while : for it is 
natural enough that the very evil which has forced 
on the beginning of reform should look uglier 
while, on the one hand, life and wisdom are build- 
ing up the new, and on the other, folly and dead- 
ness are hugging the old to them. 

In this, as in all other matters, lapse of time will 
be needed before things seem to straighten, and 
the courage and patience that does not despise 
small things lying ready to be done ; and care and 
watchfulness, lest we begin to build the wall ere 
the footings are well in, and always through all 
things much humility that is not easily cast down 
by failure, that seeks to be taught, and is ready to 

For your teachers, they must be Nature and 
History : as for the first, that you must learn of it 
is so obvious that I need not dwell upon that now : 
hereafter, when I have to speak more of matters 
of detail, I may have to speak of the manner in 
which you must learn of Nature. As to the second, 
I do not think that any man but one of the highest 
genius, could do anything in these days without 
much study of ancient art, and even he would be 
much hindered if he lacked it. If you think that 
this contradicts what I said about the death of that 
ancient art, and the necessity I implied for an art 
that should be characteristic of the present day. 

20 The Lesser Arts. 

I can only say that, in these times of plenteous 
knowledge and meagre performance, if we do not 
study the ancient work directly and learn to under- 
stand it, we shall find ourselves influenced by the 
feeble work all round us, and shall be copying the 
better work through the copyists and without 
understanding it, which will by no means bring 
about intelligent art. Let us therefore study it 
wisely, be taught by it, kindled by it ; all the while 
determining not to imitate or repeat it ; to have 
either no art at all, or an art which we have made 
our own. 

Yet I am almost brought to a stand-still when 
bidding you to study nature and the history of art, 
by remembering that this is London, and what it is 
like : how can I ask working-men passing up and 
down these hideous streets day by day to care 
about beauty? If it were poUtics, we must care 
about that ; or science, you could wrap yourselves 
up in the study of facts, no doubt, without much 
caring what goes on about you — but beauty ! do 
you not see what terrible difficulties beset art, 
owing to a long neglect of art — and neglect of 
reason, too, in this matter ? It is such a heavy 
question by what effort, by what dead-lift, you can 
thrust this difficulty from you, that I must perforce 
set it aside for the present, and must at least hope 
that the study of history and its monuments will 
help you somewhat herein. If you can really fill 
your minds with memories of great works of art. 

The Lesser Arts. 2 1 

and great times of art, you will, I think, be able to 
a certain extent to look through the aforesaid ugly 
surroundings, and will be moved to discontent of 
what is careless and brutal now, and will, I hope, 
at last be so much discontented with what is bad, 
that you will determine to bear no longer that 
short-sighted, reckless brutality of squalor that so 
disgraces our intricate civilization. 

Well, at any rate, London is good for this, that 
it is well off for museums, — which I heartily wish 
were to be got at seven days in the week instead 
of six, or at least on the only day on which an 
ordinarily busy man, one of the taxpayers who 
support them, can as a rule see them quietly, — and 
certainly any of us who may have any natural turn 
for art must get more help from frequenting them 
than one can well say. It is true, however, that 
people need some preliminary instruction before 
they can get all the good possible to be got from 
the prodigious treasures of art possessed by the 
country in that form : there also one sees things in 
a piecemeal way : nor can I deny that there is 
something melancholy about a museum, such a 
tale of violence, destruction, and carelessness, as 
its treasured scraps tell us. 

But moreover you may sometimes have an 
opportunity of studying ancient art in a narrower 
but a more intimate, a more kindly form, the monu- 
ments of our own land. Sometimes only, since 
we live in the middle of this world of brick and 

22 The Lesser Arts. 

mortar, and there is little else left us amidst it, 
except the ghost of the great church at Westmin- 
ster, ruined as its exterior is by the stupidity of the 
restoring architect, and insulted as its glorious in- 
terior is by the pompous undertakers' lies, by the 
vainglory, and ignorance of the last two centuries 
and a half — little besides that and the matchless 
Hall near it : but when we can get beyond that 
smoky world, there, out in the country we may still 
see the works of our fathers yet alive amidst the 
very nature they were wrought into, and of which 
they are so completely a part : for there indeed if 
anywhere, in the English country, in the days when 
people cared about such things, was there a full 
sympathy between the works of man, and the land 
they were made for : — the land is a little land ; too 
much shut up within the narrow seas, as it seems, 
to have much space for swelling into hugeness : 
there are no great wastes overwhelming in their 
dreariness, no great solitudes of forests, no terri- 
ble untrodden mountain-walls : all is measured, 
mingled, varied, gliding easily one thing into ano- 
ther: little rivers, little plains, swelling, speedily- 
^f ^ changing uplands, all beset with handsome orderly 
f^T j trees ; little hills, little mountains, netted over with 
a// i the walls of sheep-walks: all is little; yet not 
^ ^'^ foolish and blank, but serious rather, and abundant 

of meaning for such as choose to seek it : it is nei- 
ther prison, nor palace, but a decent home. 

All which I neither praise nor blame, but say 

The Lesser Arts. 23 

that so it is : some people praise this homeliness 

overmuch, as if the land were the very axle-tree of 

the world ; so do not I, nor any unblinded by 

pride in themselves and all that belongs to them : 

others there are who scorn it and the tameness of 

it : not I any the more : though it would indeed 

be hard if there were nothing else in the world, no 

wonders, no terrors, no unspeakable beauties : yet 

when we think what a small part of the world's 

history, past, present, and to come, is this land we 

live in, and how much smaller still in the history 

of the arts, and yet how our forefathers clung to it, 

and with what care and pains they adorned it, this 

unromantic, uneventful-looking land of England, 

surely by this too our hearts may be touched, and ^^- 

our hope quickened. >^-^-'\^y ^■" 

For as was the land, such was the art of it '^'^*"'*^'*^1«-— 
while folk yet troubled themselves about such ^ ' ^-^^'^'^^/^T^ 
things ; it strove little to impress people either by 
pomp or ingenuity : not unseldom it fell into 
commonplace, rarely it rose into majesty; yet 
was it never oppressive, never a slave's nightmare 
nor an insolent boast : and at its best it had an 
inventiveness, an individuality,, that grander styles 
have "never overpassed : its best too, and that was 
in its very heart, was given as freely to the 
yeoman's house, and the humble village church, "C"^^Cl>^'' 
as to the lord's palace or the mighty cathedral : 
never coarse, though often rude enough, sweet, 
natural and unaffected, an art of peasants rather 


24 , The Lesser Arts. 

than of merchant-princes or courtiers, it must be a 
hard heart, I think, that does not love it: whether 
a man has been born among it like ourselves, or 
has come wonderingly on its simplicity from all 
the grandeur over-seas. A peasant art, I say, and 
it clung fast to the life of the people, and still 
lived among the cottagers and yeomen in many 
parts of the country while the big houses were 
being built * French and fine : ' Still lived also in 
many a quaint pattern of loom and printing-block, 
and embroiderers needle, while over-seas stupid 
pomp had extinguished all nature and freedom, 
and art was become, in France especially, the mere 
expression of that successful and exultant rascality, 
which in the flesh no long time afterwards went 
down into the pit for ever. 

Such was the English art, whose history is in a 
sense at your doors, grown scarce indeed, and 
growing scarcer year by year, not only through 
greedy destruction, of which there is certainly less 
than there used to be, but also through the attacks 

^// of another foe, called now-a-days ' restoration.* 
^ I must not make a long story about this, but 

* also I cannot quite pass it over, since I have pressed 

on you the study of these ancient monuments. 
Thus the matter stands : these old buildings have 
been altered and added to century after century, 
often beautifully, always historically ; their very 
value, a great part of it, lay in that : they have 
suffered too almost always from neglect, often 


The Lesser Arts. 25 

from violence (that latter also a piece of history 
often far from uninteresting), but ordinary obvious 
mending would almost always have kept them 
standing, pieces of nature and of history. 

But of late years a great uprising of ecclesiastical 
zeal, coinciding with a great increase of study, and 
consequently of knowledge of mediaeval architec- 
ture, has driven people into spending their money 
on these buildings, not merely with the purpose of 
repairing them, of keeping them safe, clean, and 
wind and water-tight, but also of 'restoring' them 
to some ideal state of perfection ; sweeping away 
if possible all signs of what has befallen them at 
least since the Reformation, and often since dates 
much earlier : this has sometimes been done with 
much disregard of art and entirely from ecclesias- 
tical zeal, but oftener it has been well meant 
enough as regards art : yet you will not have 
listened to what I have said to-night if you do 
not see that from my point of view this restoration 
must be as impossible to bring about, as the attempt 
at it is destructive to the buildings so dealt with : 
I scarcely like to think what a great part of them 
have been made nearly useless to students of art 
and history : unless you knew a great deal about 
architecture you perhaps would scarce understand 
what terrible damage has been done by that 
dangerous * little knowledge * in this matter : but 
at least it is easy to be understood, that to deal 
recklessly with valuable (and national) monuments 

26 The Lesser Arts. 

which, when once gone, can never be replaced by 
any splendor of modern art, is doing a very sorry 
service to the State. 

You will see by all that I have said on this 

study of ancient art that I mean by education 

herein something much wider than the teaching of 

a definite art in schools of design, and that it must 

be something that we must do more or less for 

ourselves : I mean by it a systematic concentration 

of our thoughts on the matter, a studying of it in 

all ways, careful and laborious practice of it, and a 

determination to do nothing but what is known to 

, •- be good in workmanship and design. 

i^ Of course, however, both as an instrument of 

>* ' that study we have been speaking of, as well as of 

the practice of the arts, all handicraftsmen should 

be taught to draw very carefully; as indeed all 

"•^ people should be taught drawing who are not 

physically incapable of learning it : but the art 

of drawing so taught would not be the art of 

designing, but only a means toward this end, 

general capability in dealing with the arts. 

For I wish specially to impress this upon you, 

that designing cannot be taught at all in a school : 

continued practice will help a man who is naturally 

" / 'J a designer, continual notice of nature and of art : 

^ ^ J. ^ ' no doubt those who have some faculty for design- 

jry*^ ing are still numerous, and they want from a 

<^ / ""^"ti/ school certain technical teaching, just as they want 

/ ^ J ^1 tools : in these days also, when the best school, 

The Lesser Arts. 2 7 

the school of successful practice going on around 
you, is at such a low ebb, they do undoubtedly 
want instruction in the history of the arts : these 
two things schools of design can give : but the 
royal road of a set of rules deduced from a sham 
science of design, that is itself not a science but 
another set of rules, will lead nowhere ; — or, let us 
rather say, to beginning again. 

As to the Mnd of drawing that should be taught 
to men engaged in ornamental work, there is only 
one best way of teaching drawing, and that is teach- 
ing the scholar to draw the human figure : both 
because the lines of a man's body are much more 
subtle than anything else, and because you can 
more surely be found out and set right if you go 
wrong. I do think that such teaching as this, 
given to all people who care for it, would help the 
revival of the arts very much : the habit of dis- 
criminating between right and wrong, the sense of 
pleasure in drawing a good line, would really, I 
think, be education in the due sense of the word 
for all such people as had the germs of invention 
in them ; yet as aforesaid, in this age of the world 
it would-be mere affectation to pretend to shut 
one's eyes to the art of past ages : that also we 
must study. If other circumstances, social and 
economical, do not stand in our way, that is to say, 
if the world is not too busy to allow us to have 
Decorative Arts at all, these two are the direct 
means by which we shall get them ; that is, general 

28 The Lesser Arts. 

cultivation of the powers of the mind, general cul- 
tivation of the powers of the eye and hand. 

Perhaps that seems to you very commonplace 
advice and a very roundabout road ; nevertheless 
'tis a certain one, if by any road you desire to 
come to the new art, which is my subject to-night : 
if you do not, and if those germs of invention, 
which, as I said just now, are no doubt still com- 
mon enough among men, are left neglected and 
undeveloped, the laws of Nature will assert them- 
selves in this as in other matters, and the faculty 
of design itself will gradually fade from the race of 
man. Sirs, shall we approach nearer to perfection 
by casting away so large a part of that intelligence 
which makes us inen ? 

And now before I make an end, I want to call 
your attention to certain things, that, owing to our 
neglect of the arts for other business, bar that good 
road to us and are such an hindrance, that, till they 
are dealt with, it is hard even to make a beginning 
of our endeavor. And if my talk should seem to 
grow too serious for our subject, as indeed I think 
it cannot do, I beg you to remember what I said 
earlier, of how the arts all hang together. Now 
there is one art of which the old architect of 
Edward the Third's time was thinking — he who 
founded New College at Oxford, I mean — when he 
took this for his motto : * Manners maketh man : * 
he meant by manners the art of morals, the art of 
living worthily, and like a man. I must needs 
claim this art also as dealing with my subject. 

The Lesser Arts. 29 

There is a great deal of sham work in the world, .-- jP^'^ 

hurtful to the buyer, more hurtful to the seller, if \ aH^/^ 

he only knew it, most hurtful to the maker: how "^y:'^^ iJ^ jP' 
good a foundation it would be toward getting good f "^ ^^0^S 
Decorative Art, that is ornamental workmanship, if >\ ^ 

we craftsmen were to resolve to turn out nothing j^ - ^^ 
but excellent workmanship in all things, instead of Ij^'''^' ^^^ 
having, as we too often have now, a very low aver- ?v^ 
age standard of work, which we often fall below. 

I do not blame either one class or another in 
this matter, I blame all : to set aside our own class 
of handicraftsmen, of whose shortcomings you and 
I know so much that we need talk no more about 
it, I know that the public in general are set on hay- 
ing things cheap, being so ignorant that they do 
not know when they get them nasty also ; so igno- 
rant that they neither know nor care whether they 
give a man his due : I know that the manufacturers 
(so called) are so set on carrying out competition 
to its utmost, competition of cheapness, not of ex- 
cellence, that they meet the bargain-hunters half 
way, and cheerfully furnish them with nasty wares 
at the cheap rate they are asked for, by means of 
what can be called by no prettier name than fraud. 
England has of late been too much busied with the 
counting-house and not enough with the workshop : 
with the result that the counting-house at the pres- 
ent moment is rather barren of orders. 

I say all classes are to blame in this matter, but 
also I say that the remedy lies with the handicrafts- 

30 The Lesser Arts, 

men, who are not ignorant of these things like the 
public, and who have no call to be greedy and iso- 
lated like the manufacturers or middlemen ; the 
duty and honor of educating the public lies with 
them, and they have in them the seeds of order and 
organization which make that duty the easier. 

When will they see to this and help to make 
men of us all by insisting on this most weighty 
piece of manners ; so that we may adorn life with 
the pleasure of cheerfully buying goods at their due 
price ; with the pleasure of sellmg goods that we 
could be proud of both for fair price and fair work- 
manship : with the pleasure of working soundly and 
without haste at making goods that we could be 
proud of ? — much the greatest pleasure of the 
three is that last, such a pleasure as, I think, the 
world has none like it. 

You must not say that this piece of manners 

lies out of my subject : it is essentially a part of it 

X / ' J and most important: for I am bidding you learn to 

6' f * be artists, if art is not to come to an end amongst 

/ f ^ us: and what is an artist but a workman who is 

/ i i determined that, whatever else happens, his work 

v 4 shall be excellent ? or, to put it in another way : 

i the decoration of workmanship, what is it but the 

/ ^ expression of man's pleasure in successful labor ? 

^:c But what pleasure can there be in bad work, in 

^^;/successful labor ; why should we decorate that? 

and how can we bear to be always unsuccessful in 

our labor 1 

The Lesser Arts, 31 

As greed of unfair gain, wanting to be paid for 
what we have not earned, cumbers our path with 
. this tangle of bad work, of sham work, so the 
heaped-up money which this greed has brought us 
(for greed will have its way, like all other strong 
passions), this money, I say, gathered into heaps 
little and big, with all the false distinction which so 
unhappily it yet commands amongst us, has raised 
up against the arts a barrier of the love of Ju^ury^ 
and show, which is of all obvious hindrances the _ 

worst to overpass : the highest and most cultivated ^/^ ^ ^ 
classes are not free from the vulgarity of it, the 
lower are not free from its pretence. I beg you to 
remember both as a remedy against this, and as ex- 
plaining exactly what I mean, that nothing can be >-^\"^ \ 




a work of art which^ is not useful ; that is to say, 

which does not minister to the body when well 

under command of the mind, or which does not 

amuse, soothe, or elevate the mind in a healthy 

state. What tons upon tons of unutterable rubbish 

pretending to be works of art in some degree would 

this maxim clear out of our London houses, if it 

were understood and acted upon ! To my mind it 

is only here and there (out of the kitchen) that you 

can find in a well-to-do house things that are of , ^ .SU^*^"^ 

any use at all: as a rule all the decoration (so " ^ ,, < ^*" 

called) that has got there is there, for the sake of - : -'" 

show, not because anybody likes it. I repeat, this 

stupidity goes through all classes of society : the 

silk curtains in my Lord's drawing-room are no 


32 The Lesser Arts. 

more a matter of art to him than the powder in his 
footman's hair; the kitchen in a country farmhouse 
is most commonly a pleasant and homelike place, 
. the parlor dreary and useless. 

Simplicity of life, begetting simpHcity of taste, 
that is, a love for sweet and lofty things, is of all 
matters most necessary for the birth of the new 
and better art we crave for ; simplicity everywhere, 
in the palace as well as in the cottage. 

Still more is this necessary, cleanUness and 
decency everywhere, in the cottage as well as in 
the palace: the lack of that is a serious piece of 
man7iers for us to correct : that lack and all the in- 
equalities of life, and the heaped-up thoughtlessness 
and disorder of so many centuries that cause it : and 
as yet it is only a very few men who have begun to 
think about a remedy for it in its widest range : 
even in its narrower aspect, in the defacements of 
our big towns by all that commerce brings with it, 
who heeds it? who tries to control their squalor 
and hideousness ? there is nothing but thoughtless- 
ness and recklessness in the matter : the helpless- 
ness of people who don't live long enough to do a 
thing themselves, and have not manliness and fore- 
sight enough to begin the work, and pass it on to 
those that shall come after them. 

Is money to be gathered ? Cut down the pleas- 
ant trees among the houses, pull down ancient and 
venerable buildings for the money that a few square 
yards of London dirt will fetch ; blacken rivers, 

The Lesser Arts. 33 

hide the sun and poison the air with smoke and 
worse, and it's nobody's business to see to it or 
mend it: that is all that modern commerce, the 
counting-house forgetful of the workshop, will. do 
for us herein. 

And Science — we have loved her well, and fol- 
lowed her diligently, what will she do ? I fear 
she is so much in the pay of the counting-house, the 
counting-house and the drill-sergeant, that she is 
too busy, and will for the present do nothing. Yet 
there are matters which I should have thought easy 
for her; say, for example, teaching Manchester how 
to consume its own smoke, or Leeds how to get 
rid of its superfluous black dye without turning it 
into the river, which would be as much worth her 
attention as the production of the heaviest of heavy 
black silks, or the biggest of useless guns. Any- 
how, however it be done, unless people care about 
carrying on their business without making the 
world hideous, how can they care about art ? I 
know it will cost much both of time and money to 
better these things even a little ; but I do not see 
how these can be better spent than in making life 
cheerful and honorable for others and for ourselves ; ,^^^ *"\ 

and the gain of good life to the country at large 'Z^'^^" 
that would result from men seriously setting about ^'*^^#.'^*"'^ 
the bettering of the decency of our big towns would 
be priceless, even if nothing specially good befell 
the arts in consequence : I do not know that it 
would ; but I should begin to think matters hope- 


34 The Lesser Arts. 

ful if men turned their attention to such things, 
and I repeat, that unless they do so, we can scarcely 
even begin with any hope our endeavors for the 
bettering of the Arts. 

Until something or other is done to give all men 
some pleasure for the eyes and rest for the mind 
in the aspect of their own and their neighbors' 
houses, until the contrast is less disgraceful be- 
tween the fields where beasts live and the streets 
where men hve, I suppose that the practice of the 
arts must be mainly kept in the hands of a few 
highly cultivated men, who can go often to beau- 
tiful places, whose education enables them, in the 
contemplation of the past glories of the world, to 
shut out from their view the every-day squalors that 
the most of men move in. Sirs, I believe that art 
• P has such sympathy with cheerful freedom, open- 
heartedness and reality, so much she sickens under 
selfishness and luxury, that she will not live thus 
isolated and exclusive. I will go further than this, 
and say that on such terms I do not wish her to 
live. I protest that it would be a shame to an 
honest artist to enjoy what he had huddled up to 
himself of such art, as it would be for a rich man 
to sit and eat dainty food amongst starving soldiers 
in a beleaguered fort. 
/ * I do not want art for a few, any more than 

V' '^ education for a few, or freedom for a few. 

f'^ No, rather than art should live this poor thin 
life among a few exceptional men, despising those 

The Lesser Arts. 35 

beneath them for an ignorance for which they 
themselves are responsible, for a brutality that they 
will not struggle with, — rather than this, I would 
that the world should indeed sweep away all art 
for awhile, as I said before I thought it possible 
she might do : rather than the wheat should rot 
in the miser's granary, I would that the earth had 
it, that it might yet have a chance to quicken in 
the dark. 

I have a sort of faith, though, that this clearing 
away of all art will not happen, that men will get 
wiser, as well as more learned ; that many of the 
intricacies of life, on which we now pride ourselves 
more than enough, partly because they are new, 
partly because they have come with the gain of 
better things, will be cast aside as having played 
their part, and being useful no longer. I hope that 
we shall have leisure from war, — war commercial, 
as well as war of the bullet and the bayonet ; leisure 
from the knowledge that darkens counsel ; leisure 
above all from the greed of money, and the craving 
for that overwhelming distinction that money now 
brings : I believe that as we have even now partly 
achieved liberty, so we shall one day achieve 
EQUALITY, which, and which only, means frater- 
nity, and so have leisure from poverty and all its 
griping, sordid cares. 

Then, having leisure from all these things, amidst 
renewed simplicity of life we shall have leisure to 
think about our work, that faithful daily companion. 

36 The Lesser Arts, 

which no man any longer will venture to call the 
Curse of labor : for surely then we shall be happy 
in it, each in his place, no man grudging at an- 
other ; no one bidden to be any man's servant, 
every one scorning to be any man's master: men 
will then assuredly be happy in their work, and 
that happiness will assuredly bring forth decorative, 
noble, popidar art. 

That art will make our streets as beautiful as 
the woods, as elevating as the mountain-sides : it 
will be a pleasure and a rest, and not a weight 
upon the spirits to come from the open country 
into a town ; every man's house will be fair and 
decent, soothing to his mind and helpful to his 
work : all the works of man that we live amongst 
and handle will be in harmony with nature, will be 
reasonable and beautiful : yet all will be simple 
and inspiriting, not childish nor enervating ; for as 
nothing of beauty and splendor that man's mind 
and hand may compass shall be wanted from our 
public buildings, so in no private dwelling will 
there be any signs of waste, pomp, or insolence, 
and every man will have his share of the best. 

It is a dream, you may say, of what has never 
been and never will be : true, it has never been, 
and therefore, since the world is alive and moving 
yet, my hope is the greater that it one day will be : 
true, it is a dream; but' dreams have before now 
come about of things so good and necessary to us, 
that we scarcely think of them more than of the 

The Lesser Arts. 37 

daylight, though once people had to live without 
them, without even the hope of them. 

Anyhow, dream as it is, I pray you to pardon 
my setting it before you, for it lies at the bottom 
of all my work in the Decorative Arts, nor will it 
ever be out of my thoughts : and I am here with 
you to-night to ask you to help me in realizing this 
dream, this hope. 


* And the men of labor spent their strength in daily struggling 
for breath to maintain the vital strength they labored with : so 
living in a daily circulation of sorrow, living but to work, and work- 
ing but to live, as if daily bread were the only end of a wearisome 
life, and a wearisome life the only occasion of daily bread.' • — 
Daniel Defoe. 

I KNOW that a large proportion of those here pres- 
ent are either already practising the Fine Arts, or 
are being specially educated to that end, and I 
feel that I may be expected to address myself spe- 
cially to these. But since it is not to be doubted 
that we are all met together because of the interest 
we take in what concerns these Arts, I would rather 
address myself to you all as representing the public 
in general. Indeed, those of you who are specially 
studying Art could learn little of me that would be 
useful to yourselves only. You are already learning 
under competent masters — most competent, I am 
glad to know — by means of a system which should 
teach you all you need, if you have been right in 
making the first step of devoting yourselves to 
Art ; I mean if you are aiming at the right thing, 
and in some way or another understand what Art 
means, which you may well do without being able 

The Art of the People. 39 

to express it, and if you are resolute to follow on 
the path which that inborn knowledge has shown 
to you ; if it is otherwise with you than this, no 
system and no teachers will help you to produce 
real art of any kind, be it never so humble. Those 
of you who are real artists know well enough all 
the special advice I can give you, and in how few 
words it may be said ■ — follow nature, study an-i 
tiquity, make your own art, and do not steal it, j 
grudge no expense of trouble, patience, or courage, I 
in the striving to accomplish the hard thing you 
have set yourselves to do. You have had all that 
said to you twenty times, I doubt not ; and twenty 
times twenty have said it to yourselves, and now 
I have said it again to you, and done neither you 
nor me good nor harm thereby. So true it all is, 
so well known, and so hard to follow. 

But to me, and I hope to you, art is a very 
serious thing, and cannot by any means be disso- 
ciated from the weighty matters that occupy the 
thoughts of men ; and there are principles under- 
lying the practice of it, on which all serious-minded 
men may — nay, must — have their own thoughts. 
It is on some of these that I ask your leave to 
speak, and to address myself, not only to those who 
are consciously interested in the arts, but to all 
those also who have considered what the progress 
of civilization promises and threatens to those who 
shall come after us : what there is to hope and fear 
for the future of the arts, which were born with the 

40 ^ The Art of the People. 

birth of civilization and will only die with its death 
— what on this side of things, the present time of 
strife and doubt and change, is preparing for the 
better time, when the change shall have come, the 
strife be lulled, and the doub'c cleared : this is a 
question, I say, which is indeed weighty, and may 
well interest all thinking men. 

Nay, so universally important is it, that I fear 
lest you should think I am taking too much upon 
myself to speak to you on so weighty a matter, nor 
should I have dared to do so, if I did not feel that 
I am to-night only the mouthpiece of better men 
than myself, whose hopes and fears I share ; and 
that being so, I am the more emboldened to speak 
out, if I can, my full mind on the subject, because 
I am in a city where, if anywhere, men are not 
contented to live wholly for themselves and the 
present, but have fully accepted the duty of keeping 
their eyes open to whatever new is stirring, so that 
they may help and be helped by any truth that 
there may be in it. Nor can I forget, that, since 
you have done me the great honor of choosing me 
for the President of your Society of Arts for the 
past year, and of asking me to speak to you to- 
night, I should be doing less than my duty if I did 
not, according to my lights, speak out straightfor- 
wardly whatever seemed to me might be in a small 
degree useful to you. Indeed, I think I am among 
friends, who may forgive me if I speak rashly, but 
scarcely if I speak falsely. 

The Art of the People. 4 1 

The aim of your Society and School of Arts is, 
as I understand it, to further those arts by educa- 
tion widely spread. A very great object is that, 
and well worthy of the reputation of this great city ; 
but since Birmingham has also, I rejoice to know, 
a great reputation for not allowing things to go 
about shamming life when the brains are knocked 
out of them, I think you should know and see 
clearly what it is you have undertaken to further 
by these institutions, and whether you really care 
about it, or only languidly acquiesce in it — whether, 
in short, you know it to the heart, and are indeed 
part and parcel of it, with your own will, or against 
it ; or else have heard say that it is a good thing if 
any one care to meddle with it. 

If you are surprised at my putting that question 
for your consideration, I will tell you why I do so. 
There are some of us who love Art most, and I 
may say most faithfully, who see for certain that 
such love is rare now-a-days. We cannot help 
seeing, that besides a vast number of people, who 
(poor souls I") are sordid and brutal of mind and 
habits, and have had no chance or choice in the 
matter, there are many high-minded, thoughtful, 
and cultivated men who inwardly think the arts to 
be a foolish accident of civilization — nay worse 
perhaps, a nuisance, a disease, a hindrance to 
human progress. Some of these, doubtless, are 
very busy about other sides of thought They are, 
as I should put it, so artistically engrossed by the 

42 T/ie Art of the People. 

sC study of science, politics, or what not, that they 

' . have necessarily narrowed their minds by their 

^^ hard and praiseworthy labors. But since such 
men are few, this does not account for a prevalent 
habit of thought that looks upon Art as at best 

What is wrong, then, with us or the arts, since 
what was once accounted so glorious, is now deemed 
paltry ? 

The question is no light one; for, to put the 
matter in its clearest light, I will say that the 
leaders of modern thought do for the most part 
sincerely and single-mindedly hate and despise the 
arts ; and you know well that as the leaders are, 
so must the people be ; and that means that we 
who are met together here for the furthering of 
Art by wide-spread education are either deceiving 
ourselves and wasting our time, since we shall one 
day be of the same opinion as the best men among 
us, or else we represent a small minority that is 
right, as minorities sometimes are, while those 
upright men aforesaid, and the great mass of 
civilized men, have been blinded by untoward cir- 

That we are of this mind — the minority that 
is right — is, I hope, the case. I hope we know 
assuredly that the arts we have met together to 
further are necessary to the life of man, if the prog- 
ress of civihzation is not to be as causeless as the 
turning of a wheel that makes nothing. 

The Art of the People. 43 

How, then, shall we, the minority, carry out the 
duty which our position thrusts upon us of striving 
to grow into a majority ? 

If we could only explain to those thoughtful 
men, and the millions of whom they are the flower, 
what the thing is that we love, which is to us as 
the bread we eat, and the air we breathe, but about 
which they know nothing and feel nothing, save a 
vague instinct of repulsion, then the seed of victory 
might be sown. This is hard indeed to do ; yet if 
we ponder upon a chapter of ancient or mediaeval 
history, it seems to me some glimmer of a chance 
of doing so breaks in upon us. Take, for example, 
a century of the Byzantine Empire, weary your- 
selves with reading the names of the pedants, 
tyrants, and tax-gatherers to whom the terrible 
chain which long-dead Rome once forged, still gave 
the power of cheating people into thinking that they 
were necessary lords of the world. Turn then to 
the lands they governed, and read and forget a 
long string of the causeless murders of Northern 
and Saracen pirates and robbers. That is pretty 
much the sum of what so-called history has left us 
of the tale of those days — the stupid languor and the 
evil deeds of kings and scoundrels. Must we turn 
away then, and say that all was evil. How then 
did men live from day to day t How then did 
Europe grow into intelligence and freedom } It 
seems there were others than those of whom his- 
tory (so called) has left us the names and the 

44 Tf^^ ^^i of i^^ People. 

deeds. These, the raw material for the treasury 
and the slave-market, we now call ' the people,' and 
we know that they were working all that while. 
Yes, and that their work was not merely slaves* 
work, the meal-trough before them and the whip 
behind them ; for though history (so called) has for- 
gotten them, yet their work has not been forgotten, 
but has made another history — the history of Art. 
There is not an ancient city in the East or the 
West that does not bear some token of their grief, 
and joy, and hope. From Ispahan to Northumber- 
land, there is no building built between the seventh 
and seventeenth centuries that does not show the 
influence of the labor of that oppressed and 
neglected herd of men. No one of them, indeed, 
rose high above his fellows. There was no Plato, 
or Shakespeare, or Michael Angelo amongst them. 
Yet, scattered as it was among many men, how 
strong their thought was, how long it abided, how 
far it travelled ! 

And so it was ever through all those days 
when Art was vigorous and progressive. Who 
can say how little we should know of many periods, 
but for their art } History (so called) has remem- 
bered the kings and warriors, because they de- 
stroyed ; Art has remembered the people, because 
they created. 

I think, then, that this knowledge we have of 
the life of past times gives us some token of the 
way we should take in meeting those honest and 

The Art of the People. 45 

single-hearted men who above all things desire the 

world's progress, but whose minds are, as it were, 

sick on this point of the arts. Surely we may say 

to them : When all is gained that you (and we) so 

long for, what shall we do then ? That great change 

which we are working for, each in his own way, 

will come like other changes, as a thief in the 

night, and will be with us before we know it ; but 

let us imagine that its consummation has come 

suddenly and dramatically, acknowledged and 

hailed by all right-minded people ; and what shall 

we do then, lest we begin once more to heap up I 

fresh corruption for the woeful labor of ages once 

again ? I say, as we turn away from the flagstaff I 

where the new banner has been just run up ; as we I 

depart, our ears yet ringing with the blare of the 1 

heralds* trumpets that have proclaimed the new v 

order of things, what shall we turn to then, what * 

must we turn to then ? 

To what else, save to our work, our daily labor ? . ^^ ^^^... 

With what, then, shall we adorn it when we u. , 
have become wholly free and reasonable? It is 44. 

necessary toil, but shall it be toil only ? Shall all 
we can do with it be to shorten the hours of that 
toil to the utmost, that the hours of leisure may be 
long beyond what men used to hope for ? and what 
then shall we do with the leisure, if we say that 
all toil is irksome ? Shall we sleep it all away ? — • 
Yes, and never wake again, I should hope, in that 

46 The Art of the People. 

What shall we do then ? what shall our necessary 
hours of labor bring forth ? 

That will be a question for all men in that day 
when many wrongs are righted, and when there 
will be no classes of degradation on whom the 
dirty work of the world can be shovelled ; and if 
men's minds are still sick and loathe the arts, they 
will not be able to answer that question. 

Once men sat under grinding tyrannies, amidst 
violence and fear so great, that now-a-days we 
wonder how they lived through twenty-four hours 
is/" of it, till we remember that then, as now, their daily 
^, ^' labQj- was the main part of their lives, and that that 
^/ j^y ^ daily labor was sweetened by the daily creation 
w'^^r ^ of Art ; and shall we, who are delivered from the 
/ //" evils they bore, live drearier days than they did ? 
f^^^^ Shall men, who have come forth from so many 

tyrannies, bind themselves to yet another one, and 
become the slaves of nature, piling day upon day 
of hopeless, useless toil ? Must this go on worsen- 
ing till it comes to this at last — that the world shall 
have come into its inheritance, and with all foes 
conquered and nought to bind it, shall choose to 
sit down and labor for ever amidst grim ugliness ? 
How, then, were all our hopes cheated, what a gulf 
of despair should we tumble into then ? 

In truth, it cannot be ; yet if that sickness of 
repulsion to the arts were to go on hopelessly, 
nought else would be, and the extinction of the 
love of beauty and imagination would prove to be 

Th^ Art of the People. 47 

the extinction of civilization. But that sickness 
the world will one day throw off, yet will, I believe, 
pass through many pains in so doing, some of 
which will look very like the death-throes of art, 
and some, perhaps, will be grievous enough to the 
poor people of the world ; since hard necessity, I 
doubt, works many of the world's changes, rather 
than the purblind striving to see, which we call the 
foresight of man. 

Meanwhile, remember that I asked just now, 
what was amiss in art or in ourselves that this 
sickness was upon us. Nothing is wrong or can be 
with art in the abstract — that must always be good 
for mankind, or we are all wrong together: but ;^^ J rr*'^" 
with art, as we of these latter days have known it, ^•f ' ' "^IT^ 
there is much wrong ; nay, what are we here for i 

to-night if that is not so 1 were not the schools of 
art founded all over the country some thirty years 
ago because we had found out that popular art 
was fading — or perhaps had faded out from 
amongst us t 

As to the progress made since then in this 
country — and in this country only, if at all — it is ' 

hard for me to speak without being either ungra- 
cious or insincere, and yet speak I must. I say, 
then, that an apparent external progress in some 
ways is obvious, but I do not know how far that is 
hopeful, for time must try it, and prove whether it 
be a passing fashion or the first token of a real stir 
among the great mass of civilized men. To speak 


48 The Art of the People. 

quite frankly, and as one friend to another, I must 
needs say that even as I say those words they 
seem too good to be true. And yet — who knows ? 

— so wont are we to frame history for the future as 
well as for the past, so often are our eyes blind 
both when we look backward and when we look 
forward, because we have been gazing so intently 

\ at our own days, our own lives. May all be better 
^, ' than I think it! 
^ ^j^ At any rate let us count our gains, and set them 

' '" ..^v* against less hopeful signs of the times. In Eng- 
land, then — and as far as I know, in England only 

— painters of pictures have grown, I believe, more 
numerous, and certainly more conscientious in their 
work, and in some cases — and this more especially 
in England — have developed and expressed a sense 
of beauty which the world has not seen for the last 
three hundred years. This is certainly a very great 
gain, which it is not easy to over-estimate, both for 
those who make the pictures and those who use 

Furthermore, in England, and in England only, 
there has been a great improvement in architecture 
and the arts that attend it — arts which it was the 
special province of the afore-mentioned schools to 
revive and foster. This, also, is a considerable 
gain to the users of the works so made, but I fear 
a gain less important to most of those concerned in 
making them. 

Against these gains we must, I am very sorry 



The Art of the People. 49 

to say, set the fact not easy to be accounted for, 
that the rest of the civilized world (so called) seems 
to have done little more than stand still in these 
matters ; and that among ourselves these improve- 
ments have concerned comparatively few people, '"r'%..^l,kv 
the mass of our population not being in the least g"*" 
touched by them; so that the great bulk of our H ^^^>^^^ " 
architecture — the art which most depends on the """^.^ "^" 
taste of the people at large ^ — grows worse and I 
worse every day. 

I must speak also of another piece of discourage- 
ment before I go further. I dare say many of you 
will remember how emphatically those who first 
had to do with the movement of which the founda- 
tion of our art-schools was a part, called the atten- 
tion of our pattern-designers to the beautiful works 
of the East. This was surely most well judged of 
them, for they bade us look at an art at once beau- 
tiful, orderly, living in our own day, and, above all, 
popular. Now, it is a grievous result of the sick- 
ness of civilization that this art is fast disappearing 
before the advance of western conquest and com- 
merce — fast, and every day faster. While we are 
met here in Birmingham to further the spread of 
education in art, Englishmen in India are, in their 
short-sightedness, actively destroying the very 
sources of that education — jewelry, metal-work, 
pottery, calico-printing, brocade-weaving, carpet- 
making — all the famous and historical arts of the 
great peninsula have been for long treated as 



50 The Art of the People. 


/ '^^ matters of no importance, to be thrust aside for 
v5\^ " -' j^ the advantage of any paltry scrap of so-called 
y %', ^V"' commerce ; and matters are now speedily coming 
ty ^ o- to an end there. I dare say some of you saw the 
y presents which the native Princes gave to the 

^y Prince of Wales on the occasion of his progress 

through India. I did myself, I will not say with 
great disappointment, for I guessed what they would 
be like, but with great grief, since there was scarce 
here and there a piece of goods among these costly 
gifts, things given as great treasures, which faintly 
upheld the ancient fame of the cradle of the in- 
dustrial arts. Nay, in some cases, it would have 
been laughable, if it had not been so sad, to see the 
piteous simplicity with which the conquered race 
had copied the blank vulgarity of their lords. And 
this deterioration we are now, as I have said, 
actively engaged in forwarding. I have read a 
little book,* a handbook to the Indian Court of 
last year's Paris Exhibition, which takes the occa- 
sion of noting the state of manufactures in India 
one by one. 'Art manufactures,' you would call 
them ; but, indeed, all manufactures are, or were, 
' art manufactures ' in India. Dr. Birdwood, the 
author of this book, is of great experience in Indian 
life, a man of science, and a lover of the arts. His 
story, by no means a new one to me, or others 
interested in the East and its labor, is a sad one 

* Now incorporated in the Handbook of htdian Art^ by Dr. 
Birdwood, published by the Science and Art Department. 

The Art of the People. 5 1 

indeed. The conquered races in their hopelessness 
are everywhere giving up the genuine practice of 
their own arts, which we know ourselves, as we 
have indeed loudly proclaimed, are founded on the 
truest and most natural principles. The often- 
praised perfection of these arts is the blossom of 
many ages of labor and change ; but the conquered 
races are casting it aside as a thing of no value, 
so that they may conform themselves to the inferior 
art, or rather the lack of art, of their conquerors. 
In some parts of the country the genuine arts are 
quite destroyed ; in many others nearly so ; in all 
they have more or less begun to sicken. So much 
so is this the case, that now for some time the 
Government has been furthering this deterioration. 
As for example, no doubt with the best intentions, 
and certainly in full sympathy with the general 
English public, both at home and in India, the 
Government is now manufacturing cheap Indian 
carpets in the Indian gaols. I do not say that it is 
a bad thing to turn out real work, or works of art, 
in gaols ; on the contrary, I think it good if it be 
properly managed. But in this case, the Govern- 
ment, being, as I said, in full sympathy with the 
English public, has determined that it will make 
its wares cheap, whether it make them nasty or not. 
Cheap and nasty they are, I assure you ; but, 
though they are the worst of their kind, they would 
not be made thus, if everything did not tend the 
same way. And it is the same everywhere and 

5 2 The Art of the People. 

with all Indian manufactures, till it has come to 
this — that these poor people have all but lost the 
one distinction, the one glory that conquest had 
left them. Their famous wares, so praised by 
those who thirty years ago began to attempt the 
restoration of popular art amongst ourselves, are 
no longer to be bought at reasonable prices in the 
common market, but must be sought for and treas- 
ured as precious relics for the museums we have 
founded for our art education. In short, their art 
is dead, and the commerce of modern civilization 
has slain it. 

What is going on in India is also going on, more 
or less, all over the East ; but I have spoken of 
India chiefly because I cannot help thinking that 
we ourselves are responsible for what is happening 
there. Chance-hap has made us the lords of many 
millions out there ; surely, it behoves us to look to 
it, lest we give to the people whom we have made 
helpless, scorpions for fish and stones for bread. 

But since neither on this side, nor on any other, 
can art be amended, until the countries that lead 
civilization are themselves in a healthy state about 
it, let us return to the consideration of its condition 
among ourselves. And again I say, that obvious 
as is that surface improvement of the arts within 
the last few years, I fear too much that there is 
something wrong about the root of the plant to 
exult over the bursting of its February buds. 

I have just shown you for one thing that lovers 

The Art of the People. 53 

of Indian and Eastern Art, including as they do the 
heads of our institutions for art education, and I am 
sure many among what are called the governing 
classes, are utterly powerless to stay its downward 
course. The general tendency of civilization is 
against them, and is too strong for them. 

Again, though many of us love architecture 
dearly, and believe that it helps the healthiness 
both of body and soul to live among beautiful things, 
we of the big towns are mostly compelled to live 
in houses which have become a by-word of con- 
tempt for their ugliness and inconvenience. The 
stream of civilization is against us, and we cannot 
battle against it. 

Once more those devoted men who have upheld 
the standard of truth and beauty amongst us, and 
whose pictures, painted amidst difficulties that none 
but a painter can know, show qualities of mind 
unsurpassed in any age — these great men have 
but a narrow circle that can understand their works, 
and are utterly unknown to the great mass of the 
people : civilization is so much against them, that \ 
they cannot move the people. 

Therefore, looking at all this, I cannot think that 
all is well with the root of the tree we are culti- 
vating. Indeed, I believe that if other things were 
but to stand still in the world, this improvement 
before mentioned would lead to a kind of art which, 
in that impossible case, would be in a way stable, 
would perhaps stand still also. This would be an 

54 ^^^ ^"^i of the People. 

art cultivated professedly by a few, and for a 

few, who would consider it necessary — a duty, if 

they could admit duties — to despise the common 

herd, to hold themselves aloof from all that the 

world has been struggling for from the first, to 

y^ guard carefully every approach to their palace of 

^^^- art. It would be a pity to waste many words on 

-t **^^ the prospect of such a school of art as this, which 

^ ,/ -^ does in a way, theoretically at least, exist at present, 

J V?- and has for its watchword a piece of slang that 

^y^^^V ^ does not mean the harmless thing it seems to mean 

J .^^ ' \ — art for art's sake. Its fore-doomed end must 

^ tr \ be, that art at last will seem too delicate a thing 

for even the hands of the initiated to touch ; and 

the initiated must at last sit still and do nothing — 

to the grief of no one. 

Well, certainly, if I thought you were come here 
to further such an art as this I could not have 
stood up and called you friends ; though such a 
feeble folk as I have told you of one could scarce 
care to call foes. 

Yet, as I say, such men exist, and I have troubled 
you with speaking of them, because I know that 
those honest and intelligent people, who are eager 
for human progress, and yet lack part of the human 
senses, and are anti-artistic, suppose that such men 
are artists, and that this is what art means, and 
what it does for people, and that such a narrow, 
cowardly life is what we, fellow-handicraftsmen, 
aim at. I see this taken for granted continually, 

The Art of the People. 55 

even by many who, to say truth, ought to know- 
better, and I long to put the slur from off us ; to 
make people understand that we, least of all men, 
wish to widen the gulf between the classes, nay, 
worse still, to make new classes of elevation, and 
new classes of degradation — new lords and new 
slaves ; that we, least of all men, want to cultivate 
the * plant called man ' in different ways — here 
stingily, there wastefuUy : I wish people to under- 
stand that the art we are striving for is a good 
thing that all can share, that will elevate all ; in 
good sooth, if all people do not soon share it there 
will soon be none to share ; if all are not elevated 
by it, mankind will lose the elevation it has gained. 
Nor is such an art as we long for a vain dream ; 
such an art once was in times that were worse than 
these ; when there was less courage, kindness, and 
truth in the world than there is now ; such an art 
there will be hereafter, when there will be more 
courage, kindness, and truth than there is now in 
the world. 

Let us look backward in history once more for 
a short while, and then steadily forward till my 
words are done : I began by saying that part of 
the common and necessary advice given to Art 
students was to study antiquity ; and no doubt 
many of you, like me, have done so ; have wan- 
dered, for instance, through the galleries of the 
admirable museum of South Kensington, and, like 
me, have been filled with wonder and gratitude 

56 The Art of the People. 

at the beauty which has been born from the brain 
of man. Now, consider, I pray you, what these 
wonderful works are, and how they were made ; 
and indeed, it is neither in extravagance nor with- 
out due meaning that I use the word ' wonderful * 
in speaking of them. Well, these things are just 
y y the common household goods of those past days, 
K^ -. and that is one reason why they are so few and so 

^ ,^/ ■ carefully treasured. They were common things 
1/ ^>' . in their own day, used without fear of breaking or 
^ .'■^!1 spoiling — no rarities then — and yet we have called 

\f ^y f them 'wonderful/ 
f^ v^ And how were they made ? Did a great artist 

draw the designs for them — a man of cultivation, 
highly paid, daintily fed, carefully housed, wrapped 
up in cotton wool, in short, when he was not at 
work? By no means. Wonderful as these works 
are, they were made by * common fellows,' as the 
phrase goes, in the common course of their daily 
labor. Such were the men we honor in honoring 
those works. And their labor — do you think it 
was irksome to them } Those of you who are 
artists know very well that it was not ; that it could 
not be. Many a grin of pleasure, I *11 be bound — 
and you will not contradict me — went to the carry- 
ing through of those mazes of mysterious beauty, to 
the invention of those strange beasts and birds and 
flowers that we ourselves have chuckled over at 
South Kensington. While they were at work^ at 
least, these men were not unhappy, and I suppose 


The Art of the People, 5 7 

they worked most days, and the most part of the 
day, as we do. 

Or those treasures of architecture that we study 
so carefully now-a-days — what are they ? how were 
they made ? There are great minsters among them, 
indeed, and palaces of kings and lords, but not 
many ; and, noble and awe-inspiring as these may 
be, they differ only in size from the little gray 
church that still so often makes the commonplace 
English landscape beautiful, and the little gray 
house that still, in some parts of the country at 
least, makes an English village a thing apart, to be 
seen and pondered on by all who love romance and 
beauty. These form the mass of our architectural 
treasures, the houses that every-day people lived in, 
the unregarded churches in which they worshipped. 

And, once more, who was it that designed and 
ornamented them ? The great architect, carefully 
kept for the purpose, and guarded from the com- 
mon troubles of common men ? By no means. 
Sometimes, perhaps, it was the monk, the plough- 
man's brother ; oftenest his other brother, the 
village carpenter, smith, mason, what not — * a 
common fellow,' whose common, every-day labor 
fashioned works that are to-day the wonder and 
despair of many a hard-working ' cultivated ' archi- 
tect. And did he loathe his work } No, it is im- 
possible. I have seen, as we most of us have, work 
done by such men in some out-of-the-way hamlet — 
where to-day even few strangers ever come, and 

58 The Art of the People. 

whose people seldom go five miles from their own 
doors ; in such places, I say, I have seen work so 
delicate, so careful, and so inventive, that nothing in 
its way could go further. And I will assert, with- 
out fear of contradiction, that no human ingenuity 
can produce work such as this without pleasure 
being a third party to the brain that conceived and 
the hand that fashioned it. Nor are such works 
rare. The throne of the great Plantagenet, or the 
great Valois, was no more daintily carved than the 
seat of the village mass-john, or the chest of the yeo- 
man's good-wife. 

So, you see, there was much going on to make 
life endurable in those times. Not every day, you 
may be sure, was a day of slaughter and tumult, 
though the histories read almost as if it were so ; 
but every day the hammer chinked on the anvil, 
and the chisel played about the oak beam, and 
never without some beauty and invention being born 
of it, and consequently some human happiness. 

That last word brings me to the very kernel and 

heart of what I have come here to say to you, and I 

pray you to think of it most seriously — not as to my 

words, but as to a thought which is stirring in the 

world, and will one day grow into something. 

^ : That thing which I understand by real art is the 

yf^' (expression by man of his pleasure in labor. I do 

^'^ 'not believe he can be happy in his labor without 

expressing that happiness ; and especially is this so 

when he is at work at anything in which he specially 

The Art of the People. 59 

excels. A most kind gift is this of nature, since all 
men, nay, it seems all things too, must labor ; so 
that not only does the dog take pleasure in hunting, 
and the horse in running, and the bird in flying, but 
so natural does the idea seem to us, that we imagine 
to ourselves that the earth and the very elements 
rejoice in doing their appointed work ; and the 
poets have told us of the spring meadows smiling, 
of the exultation of the fire, of the countless laughter 
of the sea. 

Nor until these latter days has man ever rejected 
this universal gift, but always, when he has not been 
too much perplexed, too much bound by disease or 
beaten down by trouble, has striven to make his 
work at least, happy. Pain he has too often found 
in his pleasure, and weariness in his rest, to trust to 
these. What matter if his happiness lie with what 
must be always with him — his work t 

And, once more, shall we, who have gained so 
much, forego this gain, the earliest, most natural 
gain of mankind ? If we have to a great extent 
done so, as I verily fear we have, what strange fog- 
lights must have misled us ; or rather let me say, 
how hard pressed we must have been in the battle 
with the evils we have overcome, to have forgotten 
the greatest of all evils. I cannot call it less than 
that. If a man has work to do which he despises, 
which does not satisfy his natural and rightful desire 
for pleasure, the greater part of his life must pass 
unhappily and without self-respect. Consider, I 



60 The Art of the People. 

beg of you, what that means, and what ruin must 
come of it in the end. 

If I could only persuade you of this, that the 
chief duty of the civilized world to-day is to set 
about making labor happy for all, to do its utmost 
to minimize the amount of unhappy labor — nay, if 
I could only persuade some two or three of you 
here present — I should have made a good night's 
work of it. 

Do not, at any rate, shelter yourselves from any 
misgiving you may have behind the fallacy that the 
,2%i art-lacking labor of to-day is happy work : for the 
most of men it is not so. It would take long, 
perhaps, to show you, and make you fully under- 
stand that the would-be art which it produces is 
joyless. But there is another token of its being 
most unhappy work, which you cannot fail to un- 
derstand at once — a grievous thing that token is — 
and I beg of you to believe that I feel the full 
shame of it, as I stand here speaking of it ; but if 
we do not admit that we are sick, how can we be 
healed } This hapless token is, that the work done 
by the civilized world is mostly dishonest work. 
Look now : I admit that civilization does make cer- 
tain things well, things which it knows, consciously 
or unconsciously, are necessary to its present un- 
healthy condition. These things, to speak shortly, 
are chiefly machines for carrying on the competition 
in buying and selling, called falsely commerce; and 
machines for the violent destruction of life — that is 

The Art of the People. 6i 

to say, materials for two kinds of war ; of which 
kinds the last is no doubt the worst, not so much in 
itself perhaps, but, because on this point the con- 
science of the world is beginning to be somewhat 
pricked. But on the other hand, matters for the 
carrying on of a dignified daily life, that life of 
mutual trust, forbearance, and help, which is the 
only real life of thinking men — these things the 
civilized world makes ill, and even increasingly 
worse and worse. 

If I am wrong in saying this, you know well I 
am only saying what is widely thought, nay widely 
said too, for that matter. Let me give an instance, 
familiar enough, of that wide-spread opinion. There 
is a very clever book of pictures * now being sold at 
the railway bookstalls, called * The British Working 
Man, by one who does not believe in him,' — a title 
and a book which make me both angry and ashamed, 
because the two express much injustice, and not a 
little truth in their quaint, and necessarily exagger- 
ated way. It is quite true, and very sad to say, 
that if any one now-a-days wants a piece of ordinary 
work done by gardener, carpenter, mason, dyer, 
weaver, smith, what you will, he will be a lucky 
rarity if he get it well done. He will, on the con- 
trary, meet on every side with evasion of plain 
duties, and disregard of other men's rights ; yet I 
cannot see how the ' British Working Man ' is to be 
made to bear the whole burden of this blame, or 

* These were originally published in Fun. 

62 The Art of the People. 

indeed the chief part of it. I doubt if it be possible 
for a whole mass of men to do work to which they 
are driven, and in which there is no hope and no 
pleasure, without trying to shirk it — at any rate, 
shirked it has always been under such circumstances. 
On the other hand, I know that there are some men 
so right-minded, that they will, in despite of irk- 
someness and hopelessness, drive right through their 
work. Such men are the salt of the earth. But 
must there not be something wrong with a state of 
society which drives these into that bitter heroism, 
and the most part into shirking, into the depths 
often of half-conscious self-contempt and degrada- 
tion } Be sure that there is, that the blindness and 
hurry of civilization, as it now is, have to answer a 
heavy charge as to that enormous amount of pleas- 
ureless work — work that tries every muscle of the 
body and every atom of the brain, and which is 
done without pleasure and without aim — work 
which everybody who has to do with tries to shuffle 
off in the speediest way that dread of starvation or 
ruin will allow him. 

I am as sure of one thing as that I am living 
and breathing, and it is this : that the dishonesty 
in the daily arts of life, complaints of which are in 
all men*s mouths, and which I can answer for it 
does exist, is the natural and inevitable result of the 
world in the hurry of the war of the counting-house, 
and the war of the battlefield, having forgotten — of 
all men, I say, each for the other, having forgotten, 

The Art of the People. 63 

that pleasure in our daily labor, which nature cries 
Out for as its due. 

Therefore, I say again, it is necessary to the 
further progress of civilization that men should turn 
their thoughts to some means of limiting, and in 
the end of doing away with, degrading labor. 

I do not think my words hitherto spoken have 
given you any occasion to think that I mean by 
this either hard or rough labor ; I do not pity men 
much for their hardships, especially if they be 
accidental ; not necessarily attached to one class 
or one condition, I mean. Nor do I think (I were 
crazy or dreaming else) that the work of the world 
can be carried on without rough labor ; but I have 
seen enough of that to know that it need not be by 
any means degrading. To plough the earth, to 
cast the net, to fold the flock — these, and such 
as these, which are rough occupations enough, and 
which carry with them many hardships, are good 
enough for the best of us, certain conditions of 
leisure, freedom, and due wages being granted. 
As to the bricklayer, the mason, and the like — 
these would be artists, and doing not only neces- 
sary, but beautiful, and therefore happy work, if 
art were anything like what it should be. No, it 
is not such labor as this which we need to do away 
with, but the toil which makes the thousand and 
one things which nobody wants, which are used 
merely as the counters for the competitive buying 
and selling, falsely called commerce, which I have 

64 The Art of the People. 

spoken of before — I know in my heart, and not 
merely by my reason, that this toil cries out to be 
done away with. But, besides that, the labor 
which now makes things good and necessary in 
themselves, merely as counters for the commercial 
war aforesaid, needs regulating and reforming. Nor 
can this reform be brought about save by art ; and 
if we were only come to our right minds, and could 
see the necessity for making labor sweet to all men, 
as it is now to very few — the necessity, I repeat ; 
lest discontent, unrest, and despair should at last 
swallow up all society — If we, then, with our eyes 
cleared, could but make some sacrifice of things 
which do us no good, since we unjustly and un- 
easily possess them, then indeed I believe we should 
sow the seeds of a happiness which the world has 
not yet known, of a rest and content which would 
make it what I cannot help thinking it was meant 
to be : and with that seed would be sown also the 
seed of real art, the expression of man's happiness 
in his labor, — an art made by the people, and for 
the people, as a happiness to the maker and the 

That is the only real art there is, the only art 
which will be an instrument to the progress of the 
world, and not a hindrance. Nor can I seriously 
doubt that in your hearts you know that it is so, 
all of you, at any rate, who have in you an instinct 
for art. I believe that you agree with me in this, 
though you may differ from much else that I have 

The Art of the People. 65 

said. I think assuredly that this is the art whose 
welfare we have met together to further, and the 
necessary instruction in which we have undertaken 
to spread as widely as may be. 

Thus I have told you something of what I think 
is to be hoped and feared for the future of art ; and 
if you ask me what I expect as the practical out- 
come of the admission of these opinions, I must 
say at once that I know, even if we were all of one 
mind, and that what I think the right mind on this 
subject, we should still have much work and many 
hindrances before us ; we should still have need of 
all the prudence, foresight, and industry of the best 
among us ; and, even so, our path would sometimes 
seem blind enough. And, to-day, when the opinions 
which we think right, and which one day will be 
generally thought so, have to struggle sorely to 
make themselves noticed at all, it is early days for 
us to try to see our exact and clearly-mapped road. {^-^ 

I suppose you will think it too commonplace of me 9^\y 

to say that the general education that makes men ,^. '"^".^^ j^l^ 
think, will one day make them think rightly upon ,s ^"' 
art. Commonplace as it is, I really believe it, and 
am indeed encouraged by it, when I remember how 
obviously this age is one of transition from the old 
to the new, and what a strange confusion, from out 
of which we shall one day come, our ignorance 
and half-ignorance is like to make of the exhausted 
rubbish of the old and the crude rubbish of the 
new, both of which lie so ready to our hands. 


66 The Art of the People. 

But, if I must say, furthermore, any words that 
seem hke words of practical advice, I think my 
task is hard, and I fear I shall offend some of you 
whatever I say ; for this is indeed an affair of 
morality, rather than of what people call art. 

However, I cannot forget that, in my mind, it is 
not possible to dissociate art from morality, politics, 
and religion. Truth in these great matters of prin- 
ciple is of one, and it is only in formal treatises 
that it can be split up diversely. I must also ask 
you to remember how I have already said, that 
though my mouth alone speaks, it speaks, however 
feebly and disjointedly, the thoughts of many men 
better than myself. And further, though when 
things are tending to the best, we shall still, as 
aforesaid, need our best men to lead us quite right ; 
yet even now surely, when it is far from that, the 
least of us can do some yeoman's service to the 
■ '. cause, and live and die not without honor. 
. Z:^/ - ^ So I will say that I believe there are two virtues 
y^f ^ ' much needed in modern life, if it is ever to become 
/ / ^ sweet ; and I am quite sure that they are absolutely 
^' f • ^ necessary in the sowing the seed of an art which 
,^ ^f ..J is to be made by the people and for the people, as a 

/ happiness to the maker and the user. These virtues 

J"' are honesty, and simplicity of life. To make my 

meaning clearer I will name the opposing vice of 
the second of these — luxury to wit. Also I mean 
by honesty, the careful and eager giving his due 
to every man, the determination not to gain by 

The Art of the People. , 67 

any man's loss, which in my experience is not a 
common virtue. 

But note how the practice of either of these 
virtues will make the other easier to us. For if 
our wants are few, we shall have but little chance 
of being driven by our wants into injustice ; and if 
we are fixed in the principle of giving every man 
his due, how can our self-respect bear that we 
should give too much to ourselves? 

And in art, and in that preparation for it with- 
out which no art that is stable or worthy can be, the 
raising, namely, of those classes which have here- 
tofore been degraded, the practice of these virtues 
would make a new world of it. For if you are rich, 
your simpUcity of life will both go towards smooth- 
ing over the dreadful contrast between waste and 
want, which is the great horror of civilized coun- 
tries, and will also give an example and standard 
of dignified life to those classes which you desire to 
raise, who, as it is indeed, being like enough to rich 
people, are given both to envy and to imitate the 
idleness and waste that the possession of much 
money produces. 

Nay, and apart from the morality of the matter, 
which I am forced to speak to you of, let me tell 
you that though simplicity in art may be costly as 
well as uncostly, at least it is not wasteful, and 
nothing is more destructive to art than the want of 
it. I have never been in any rich man's house 
which would not have looked the better for having 

68 The Art of the People. 

a bonfire made outside of it of nine-tenths of all 
that it held. Indeed, our sacrifice on the side of 
luxury will, it seems to me, be little or nothing : 
for, as far as I can make out, what people usually 
mean by it, is either a gathering of possessions 
which are sheer vexations to the owner, or a chain 
of pompous circumstance, which checks and annoys 
the rich man at every step. Yes, luxury cannot 
exist without slavery of some kind or other, and its 
abolition will be blessed like the abolition of other 
slaveries, by the freeing both of the slaves and of 
their masters. 

Lastly, if, besides attaining to simplicity of life, 
we attain also to the love of justice, then will alL 
things be ready for the new springtime of the arts. 
For those of us that are employers of labor, how 
can we bear to give any man less money than he 
can decently live on, less leisure than his education 
and self-respect demand } or those of us who are 
workmen, how can we bear to fail in the contract 
we have undertaken, or to make it necessary for a 
foreman to go up and down spying out our mean 
tricks and evasions .^ or we the shopkeepers — can 
we endure to lie about our wares, that we may 
shuffle off our losses on to some one else's shoul- 
ders } or we the public — how can we bear to pay a 
price for a piece of goods which will help to trouble 
one man, to ruin another, and starve a third } Or, 
still more, I think, how can we bear to use, how 
can we enjoy something which has been a pain and 
^a grief for the maker to make ? 

The Art of the People. 69 

And, now, I think, I have said what I came to 
say. I confess that there is nothing new in it, but 
you know the experience of the world is that a 
thing must be said over and over again before any 
great number of men can be got to Hsten to it. 
Let my words to-night, therefore, pass for one of 
the necessary times that the thought in them must 
be spoken out. 

For the rest I believe that, however seriously 
these words may be gainsaid, I have been speak- 
ing to an audience in whom any words spoken from 
a sense of duty and in hearty good-will, as mine 
have been, will quicken thought and sow some good 
seed. At any rate it is good for a man who thinks 
seriously to face his fellows, and speak out what- 
ever really burns in him, so that men may seem 
less strange to one another, and misunderstand- 
ing, the fruitful cause of aimless strife, may be 

But if to any of you I have seemed to speak 
hopelessly, my words have been lacking in art ; and 
you must remember that hopelessness would have 
locked my mouth, not opened it. I am, indeed, 
hopeful, but can I give a date to the accomplish- 
ment of my hope, and say that it will happen in 
my life or yours } 

But I will at least say, Courage ! for things won- 
derful, unhoped for, glorious, have happened even 
in this short while I have been alive. 

Yes, surely these times are wonderful and fruitful 

70 The Art of the People, 

of change, which, as it wears and gathers new life 
even in its wearing, will one day bring better things 
for the toiling days of men, who with freer hearts 
and clearer eyes, will once more gain the sense of 
outward beauty, and rejoice in it. 

Meanwhile, if these hours be dark, as, indeed, in 
many ways they are, at least do not let us^sit deed- 
less, like fools and fine gentlemen, thinking the 
common toil not good enough for us, and beaten 
by the muddle ; but rather let us work like good 
fellows trying by some dim candle-light to set our 
workshop ready against to-morrow's daylight — 
that to-morrow, when the civilized world, no longer 
greedy, strifeful, and destructive, shall have a new 
art, a glorious art, made by the people and for the 
people, as a happiness to the maker and the user. 


« propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.' — JuvenaL 

I STAND before you this evening weighted with a 
disadvantage that I did not feel last year ; — I have 
little fresh to tell you ; I can somewhat enlarge on 
what I said then ; here and there I may make bold 
to give you a practical suggestion, or I may put 
what I have to say in a way that will be clearer to 
some of you perhaps ; but my message is really 
the same as it was when I first had the pleasure of 
meeting you. 

It is true that if all were going smoothly with 
art, or at all events so smoothly that there were 
but a few malcontents in the world, you might 
listen with some pleasure, and perhaps advantage, 
to the talk of an old hand in the craft concerning 
ways of work, the snares that beset success, and 
the shortest road to it, to a tale of workshop re- 
ceipts and the like : that would be a pleasant talk 
surely between friends and fellow-workmen ; but 
it seems to me as if it were not for us as yet ; nay, 
maybe we may live long and find no time fit for 
such restful talk as the cheerful histories of the 
hopes and fears of our workshops : anyhow to-night 

72 The Beauty of Life. 

I cannot do it, but must once again call the faithful 
of art to a battle wider and more distracting than 
that kindly struggle with nature, to which all true 
craftsmen are born ; which is both the building-up 
and the wearing-away of their lives. 

As I look round on this assemblage, and think 
of all that it represents, I cannot choose but be 
moved to the soul by the troubles of the life of 
civilized man, and the hope that thrusts itself 
through them ; I cannot refrain from giving you 
once again the message with which, as it seems, 
some chance-hap has charged me : that message is, 
in short, to call on you to face the latest danger 
which civilization is threatened with, a danger of 
her own breeding : that men in struggling towards 
the complete attainment of all the luxuries of life 
for the strongest portion of their race should de- 
prive their whole race of all the beauty of life : a 
danger that the strongest and wisest of mankind, 
in striving to attain to a complete mastery over 
nature, should destroy her simplest and widest- 
spread gifts, and thereby enslave simple people to 
them, and themselves to themselves, and so at 
last drag the world into a second barbarism more 
ignoble, and a thousandfold more hopeless, than 
the first. 

Now of you who are listening to me, there are 
some, I feel sure, who have received this message, 
and taken it to heart, and are day by day fighting 
the battle that it calls on you to fight : to you I 

The Beauty of Life. 73 

can say nothing but that if any word I speak dis- 
courage you, I shall heartily wish I had never 
spoken at all : but to be shown the enemy, and the 
castle we have got to storm, is not to be bidden 
to run from him ; nor am I telling you to sit down 
deedless in the desert because between you and the 
promised land lies many a trouble, and death itself 
maybe : the hope before you you know, and nothing 
that I can say can take it away from you ; but 
friend may with advantage cry out to friend in the 
battle that a stroke is coming from this side or that : 
take my hasty words in that sense, I beg of you. 

But I think there will be others of you in whom 
vague discontent is stirring : who are oppressed by 
the life that surrounds you ; confused and troubled 
by that oppression, and not knowing on which side 
to seek a remedy, though you are fain to do so : 
well, we, who have gone further into those troubles, 
believe that we can help you : true we cannot at 
once take your trouble from you ; nay, we may at 
first rather add to it ; but we can tell you what we 
think of the way out of it ; and then amidst the 
many things you will have to do to set yourselves 
and others fairly on that way, you will many days, 
nay most days, forget your trouble in thinking of 
the good that lies beyond it, for which you are 

But, again, there are others amongst you (and 
to speak plainly, I daresay they are the majority), 
who are not by any means troubled by doubt of 

74 The Beauty of Life. 

the road the world is going, nor excited by any 
hope of its bettering that road : to them the cause 
of civiUzation is simple and even commonplace : 
wonder, hope, and fear no longer hang about it ; 
it has become to us like the rising and setting of 
the sun ; it cannot err, and we have no call to 
meddle with it, either to complain of its course, or 
to try to direct it. 

There is a ground of reason and wisdom in that 
way of looking at the matter : surely the world will 
go on its ways, thrust forward by impulses which 
we cannot understand or sway : but as it grows in 
strength for the journey, its necessary food is the 
life and aspirations of all of us : and we discon- 
tented strugglers with what at times seems the 
hurrying blindness of civilization, no less than those 
who see nothing but smooth, unvarying progress 
in it, are bred of civilization also, and shall be 
used up to further it in some way or other, I doubt 
not : and it may be of some service to those 
who think themselves the only loyal subjects of 
progress to hear of our existence, since their not 
hearing of it would not make an end of it : it may 
set them a thinking not unprofitably to hear of 
burdens that they do not help to bear, but which 
are nevertheless real and weighty enough to some 
of their fellow-men, who are helping, even as they 
are, to form the civilization that is to be. 

The danger that the present course of civilization 
will destroy the beauty of life — these are hard 

The Beauty of Life. 75 

words, and I wish I could mend them, but I cannot 
while I speak what I beheve to be the truth. 

That the beauty of life is a thing of no moment, 
I suppose few people would venture to assert, and 
yet most civilized people act as if it were of none, 
and in so doing are wronging both themselves and 
those that are to come after them ; for that beauty, 
which is what is meant by art^ using the word in r^ ^^^^H^k^ 
its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident '^|. %%\u ^ 
to human life, which people can take or leave as „.^^^i^j^^A^^«^ 
they choose, but a positive necessity of life, if we 
are to live as nature meant us to; that is, unless 
we are content to be less than men. 

Now I ask you, as I have been asking myself 
this long while, what proportion of the population 
in civilized countries has any share at all in that 
necessity of life } 

I say that the answer which must be made to 
that question justifies my fear that modern civiliza- 
tion is on the road to trample out all the beauty of 
life, and to make us less than men. 

Now if there should be any here who will say : 
It was always so ; there always was a mass of rough 
ignorance that knew and cared nothing about art ; 
I answer first, that if that be the case, then it was 
always wrong, and we, as soon as we have become 
conscious of that wrong, are bound to set it right if 
we can. 

But moreover, strange to say, and in spite of all 
the suffering that the world has wantonly made for 

76 The Beauty of Life. 

itself, and has in all ages so persistently clung to, 
as if it were a good and holy thing, this wrong of 
the mass of men being regardless of art was not 
always so. 

So much is now known of the periods of art 
that have left abundant examples of their work 
behind them, that we can judge of the art of all 
periods by comparing these with the remains of 
times of which less has been left us ; and we cannot 
fail to come to the conclusion that down to very 
recent days everything that the hand of man touched 
was more or less beautiful : so that in those days 
all people who made anything shared in art, as 
well as all people who used the things so made : 
that is, all people shared in art. 

But some people may say : And was that to be 
wished for ? would not this universal spreading of 
art stop progress in other matters, hinder the 
work of the world ? Would it not make us 
unmanly ? or if not that, would it not be intrusive, 
and push out other things necessary also for men 
to study ? 

Well, I have claimed a necessary place for art, 
a natural place, and it would be in the very essence 
of it, that it would apply its own rules of order and 
fitness to the general ways of life : it seems to me, 
therefore, that people who are over-anxious of the 
outward expression of beauty becoming too great a 
force among the other forces of life, would, if they 
had had the making of the external world, have 

The Beauty of Life. 77 

been afraid of making an ear of wheat beautiful, lest 
it should not have been good to eat. 

But indeed there seems no chance of art becoming 
universal, unless on the terms that it shall have 
little self-consciousness, and for the most part be 
done with little effort ; so that the rough work of 
the world would be as little hindered by it, as the 
work of external nature is by the beauty of all her 
forms and moods : this was the case in the times 
that I have been speaking of : of art which was 
made by conscious effort, the result of the individual 
striving towards perfect expression of their thoughts 
by men very specially gifted, there was perhaps no 
more than there is now, except in very wonderful 
and short periods ; though 1 believe that even for 
such men the struggle to produce beauty was not 
so bitter as it now is. But if there were not more 
great thinkers than there are now, there was a 
countless multitude of happy workers whose work 
did express, and could not choose but express, 
some original thought, and was consequently both 
interesting and beautiful : now there is certainly no 
chance of the more individual art becoming com- 
mon, and either wearying us by its over-abundance, 
or by noisy self-assertion preventing highly culti- 
vated men taking their due part in the other work 
of the world ; it is too difficult to do : it will be 
always but the blossom of all the half-conscious 
work below it, the fulfilment of the shortcomings of 
less complete minds : but it will waste much of its 

78 The Beauty of Life. 

power, and have much less influence on men's minds, 
unless it be surrounded by abundance of that com- 
moner work, in which all men once shared, and 
which, I say, will, when art has really awakened, be 
done so easily and constantly, that it will stand in 
no man's way to hinder him from doing what he 
will, good or evil. And as, on the one hand, I be- 
lieve that art made by the people and for the 
people as a joy both to the maker and the user 
would further progress in other matters rather than 
hinder it, so also I firmly believe that that higher 
art produced only by great brains and miraculously 
gifted hands cannot exist without it : I believe that 
the present state of things in which it does exist, 
while popular art is, let us say, asleep or sick, is a 
transitional state, which must end at last either in 
utter defeat or utter victory for the arts. 

For whereas all works of craftsmanship were 
once beautiful, unwittingly or not, they are now 
divided into two kinds, works of art and non-works 
of art : now nothing made by man's hand can be 
indifferent ; it must be either beautiful and elevat- 
ing, or ugly and degrading ; and those things that 
are without art are so aggressively ; they wound it 
by their existence, and they are now so much in the 
majority that the works of art we are obliged to set 
ourselves to seek for, whereas the other things are 
the ordinary companions of our every-day life ; so 
that if those who cultivate art intellectually were 
inclined never so much to wrap themselves in 

The Beauty of Life. 79 

their special gifts and their high cultivation, and so 
live happily, apart from other men, and despising 
them, they could not do so : they are as it were 
living in an enemy's country ; at every turn there 
is something lying in wait to offend and vex their 
nicer sense and educated eyes : they must share in 
the general discomfort — and I am glad of it. .^ J>^ 

So the matter stands : from the first dawn of V ,, , '>'',> 
history till quite modern times, art, which nature '^'""'" ,.^^-^^**^' 
meant to solace all, fulfilled its purpose ; all men - ,^ ' 
shared in it; that was what made life romantic, as ^^' 
people call it, in those days ; that and not robber- 
barons and inaccessible kings with their hierarchy 
of serving-nobles and other such rubbish : but art 
grew and grew, saw empires sicken and sickened 
with them ; grew hale again, and haler, and grew 
so great at last, that she seemed in good truth to 
have conquered everything, and laid the material 
world under foot. Then came a change at a period 
of the greatest life and hope in many ways that 
Europe had known till then: a time of so much and 
such varied, hope that people call it the time of the 
New Birth : as far as the arts are concerned I deny 
it that title ; rather it seems to me that the great 
men who lived and glorified the practice of art in 
those days, were the fruit of the old, not the seed 
of the new order of things : but a stirring and 
hopeful time it was, and many things were newborn 
then which have since brought forth fruit enough : 
and it is strange and perplexing that from those 

8o The Beauty of Life. 

days forward the lapse of time, which, through 
plenteous confusion and failure, has on the whole 
been steadily destroying privilege and exclusiveness 
in other matters, has delivered up art to be the ex- 
clusive privilege of a few, and has taken from the 
people their birthright ; while both wronged and 
wrongers have been wholly unconscious of what 
they were doing. 

Wholly unconscious — yes, but we are no longer 
so : there lies the sting of it, and there also the 

When the brightness of the so-called Renaissance 
faded, and it faded very suddenly, a deadly chill fell 
upon the arts : that New-birth mostly meant look- 
ing back to past times, wherein the men of those 
days thought they saw a perfection of art, which to 
their minds was different in kind, and not in degree 
only, from the ruder suggestive art of their own 
fathers : this perfection they were ambitious to im- 
itate, this alone seemed to be art to them, the rest 
was childishness : so wonderful was their energy, 
their success so great, that no doubt to common- 
place minds among them, though surely not to the 
great masters, that perfection seemed to be gained : 
and, perfection being gained, what are you to do ? — 
you can go no further, you must aim at standing 
still — which you cannot do. 

Art by no means stood still in those latter days 
of the Renaissance, but took the downward road 
with terrible swiftness, and tumbled down at the 

The Beauty of Life. 8i 

bottom of the hill, where as if bewitched it lay long 
in great content, believing itself to be the art of 
Michael Angelo, while it was the art of men whom 
nobody remembers but those who want to sell their 

Thus it fared with the more individual forms of 
art. As to the art of the people ; in countries and 
places where the greater art had flourished most, 
it went step by step on the downward path with 
that : in more out-of-the-way places, England for 
instance, it still felt the influence of the life of its 
earlier and happier days, and in a way lived on a 
while ; but its life was so feeble, and, so to say, illogi- 
cal, that it could not resist any change in external 
circumstances, still less could it give birth to any- 
thing new ; and before this century began, its last 
flicker had died out. Still, while it was living, in 
whatever dotage, it did imply something going on 
in those matters of daily use that we have been 
thinking of, and doubtless satisfied some cravings 
for beauty : and when it was dead, for a long time 
people did not know it, or what had taken its place, 
crept so to say into its dead body — that pretence of 
art, to wit, which is done with machines, though 
sometimes the machines are called men, and doubt- 
less are so out of working hours : nevertheless long 
before it was quite dead it had fallen so low that 
the whole subject was usually treated with the 
utmost contempt by every one who had any pre- 
tence of being a sensible man, and in short the 


82 The Beauty, of Life. 

whole civilized world had forgotten that there had 
ever been an art made by the people for the people as 
a joy for the maker aiid the user. 

But now it seems to me that the very sudden- 
ness of the change ought to comfort us, to make us 
look upon this break in the continuity of the golden 
chain as an accident only, that itself cannot last : 
for think, how many thousand years it may be since 
that primaeval man graved with a flint splinter on a 
bone the story of the mammoth he had seen, or told 
us of the slow uplifting of the heavily-horned heads 
of the reindeer that he stalked: think I say of the 
space of time from then till the dimming of the 
brightness of the Italian Renaissance ! whereas 
from that time till popular art died unnoticed and 
despised among ourselves is just but two hundred 

Strange too, that very death is contemporaneous 
with new-birth of something at all events; for out 
of all despair sprang a new time of hope lighted by 
the torch of the French Revolution : and things 
that had languished with the languishing of art, 
rose afresh and surely heralded its new birth : in 
good earnest poetry was born again, and the 
English Language, which under the hands of syco- 
phantic verse-makers had been reduced to a miser- 
able jargon, whose meaning, if it have a meaning, 
cannot be made out without translation, flowed 
clear, pure, and simple, along with the music of 
Blake and Coleridge: take those names, the earliest 

The Beauty of Life. 83 

in date among ourselves, as a type of the change 
that has happened in literature since the time of 
George II. 

With that literature in which romance, that is 
to say humanity, was re-born, there sprang up also 
a feeling for the romance of external nature, which 
is surely strong in us now, joined with a longing to 
know something real of the lives of those who have 
gone before us ; of these feelings united you will 
find the broadest expression in the pages of Walter 
Scott: it is curious as showing how sometimes one 
art will lag behind another in a revival, that the 
man who wrote the exquisite and wholly unfettered 
naturalism of the Heart of Midlothian, for instance, 
thought himself continually bound to seem to feel 
ashamed of, and to excuse himself for, his love of 
Gothic Architecture : he felt that it was romantic, 
and he knew that it gave him pleasure, but some- 
how he had not found out that it was art, having 
been taught in many ways that nothing could be 
art that was not done by a named man under 
academical rules. 

I need not perhaps dwell much on what of change 
has been since : you know well that one of the 
master-arts, the art of painting, has been revolu- 
tionized. I have a genuine difficulty in speaking 
to you of men who are my own personal friends, 
nay my masters : still since I cannot quite say 
nothing of them I must say the plain truth, which 
is this ; never in the whole history of art did any set 

84 The Beauty of Life. 

of men come nearer to the feat of making some- 
thing out of nothing than that little knot of painters 
who have raised English art from what it was, when 
as a boy I used to go to the Royal Academy Ex- 
hibition, to what it is now. 

It would be ungracious indeed for me who have 
been so much taught by him, that I cannot help 
feeling continually as I speak that I am echoing 
his words, to leave out the name of John Ruskin 
from an account of what has happened since the 
tide, as we hope, began to turn in the direction of 
art. True it is, that his unequalled style of English 
and his wonderful eloquence would, whatever its 
subject-matter, have gained him some sort of a 
hearing in a time that has not lost its relish for 
literature ; but surely the influence that he has 
exercised over cultivated people must be the result 
of that style and that eloquence expressing what 
was already stirring in men's minds ; he could not 
have written what he has done unless people were 
in some sort ready for it ; any more than those 
painters could have begun their crusade against the 
dulness and incompetency that was the rule in their 
art thirty years ago, unless they had some hope that 
they would one day move people to understand 

Well, we find that the gains since the turning- 
point of the tide are these : that there are some few 
artists who have, as it were, caught up the golden 
chain dropped two hundred years ago, and that 

The Beauty of Life. 85 

there are a few highly cultivated people who can 
understand them ; and that beyond these there is 
a vague feeling abroad among people of the same 
degree, of discontent at the ignoble ugliness that 
surrounds them. 

That seems to me to mark the advance that we 
have made since the last of popular art came to an 
end amongst us, and I do not say, considering 
where we then were, that it is not a great advance, 
for it comes to this, that though the battle is still to 
win, there are those who are ready for the battle. 

Indeed it would be a strange shame for this age 
if it were not so : for as every age of the world has 
its own troubles to confuse it, and its own follies to 
cumber it, so has each its own work to do, pointed 
out to it by unfaihng signs of the times ; and it is 
unmanly and stupid for the children of any age to 
say : We will not set our hands to the work ; we did 
not make the troubles, we will not weary ourselves 
seeking a remedy for them : so heaping up for their 
sons a heavier load than they can lift without such 
struggles as will wound and cripple them sorely. 
Not thus our fathers served us, who, working late 
and early, left us at last that seething mass of 
people so terribly alive and energetic, that we call 
modern Europe ; not thus those served us, who 
have made for us these present days, so fruitful of 
change and wondering expectation. 

The century that is now beginning to draw to an 
end, if people were to take to nicknaming centuries, 

86 The Beauty of Life. 

would be called the Century of Commerce ; and I 
do not think I undervalue the work that it has 
done: it has broken down many a prejudice and 
taught many a lesson that the world has been 
hitherto slow to learn : it has made it possible for 
many a man to live free, who would in other times 
have been a slave, body or soul, or both : if it has 
not quite spread peace and justice through the 
world, as at the end of its first half we fondly hoped 
it would, it has at least stirred up in many fresh 
cravings for peace and justice: its work has been 
good and plenteous, but much of it was roughly 
done, as needs was ; recklessness has commonly 
gone with its energy, blindness too often with its 
haste : so that perhaps it may be work enough for 
the next century to repair the blunders of that 
recklessness, to clear away the rubbish which that 
hurried work has piled up ; nay even we in the 
second half of its last quarter may do something 
towards setting its house in order. 

You, of this great and famous town, for instance, 
which has had so much to do with the Century of 
Commerce : your gains are obvious to all men, but 
the price you have paid for them is obvious to 
many — surely to yourselves most of all: I do not 
say that they are not worth the price ; I know that 
England and the world could very ill afford to 
exchange the Birmingham of to-day for the Bir- 
mingham of the year 1700: but surely if what you 
have gained be more than a mockery, you cannot 

The Beauty of Life. 87 

stop at those gains, or even go on always piling up 
similar ones. Nothing can make me believe that 
the present condition of your Black Country yonder 
is an unchangeable necessity of your life and posi- 
tion : such miseries as this were begun and carried 
on in pure thoughtlessness, and a hundredth part 
of the energy that was spent in creating them 
would get rid of them : I do think if we were not 
all of us too prone to acquiesce in the base bye- 
word * after me the deluge,' it would soon be some- 
thing more than an idle dream to hope that your 
pleasant midland hills and fields might begin to 
become pleasant again in some way or other, even 
without depopulating them ; or that those once 
lovely valleys of Yorkshire in the ' heavy woollen 
district,' with their sweeping hill-sides and noble 
rivers should not need the stroke of ruin to make 
them once more delightful abodes of men, instead 
of the dog-holes that the Century of Commerce has 
made them. 

Well, people will not take the trouble or spend 
the money necessary to beginning this sort of re- 
forms, because they do not feel the evils they live 
amongst, because they have degraded themselves 
into something less than men ; they are unmanly 
because they have ceased to have their due share 
of art. 

For again I say that herein rich people have 
defrauded themselves as well as the poor : you will 
see a refined and highly educated man now-a-days, 

88 The Beauty of Life. 

who has been to Italy and Egypt, and where not, 
who can talk learnedly enough (and fantastically 
enough sometimes) about art, and who has at his 
fingers' ends abundant lore concerning the art and 
literature of past days, sitting down without signs 
of discomfort in a house, that with all its surround- 
ings is just brutally vulgar and hideous : all his 
education has not done more for him than that. 

The truth is, that in art, and in other things 
besides, the labored education of a few will not 
raise even those few above the reach of the evils 
that beset the ignorance of the great mass of the 
population : the brutaHty, of which such a huge 
stock has been accumulated lower down, will often 
show without much peeling through the selfish re- 
finement of those who have let it accumulate. The 
lack of art, or rather the murder of art, that curses 
our streets from the sordidness of the surroundings 
of the lower classes, has its exact counterpart in the 
dulness and vulgarity of those of the middle classes, 
and the double-distilled dulness, and scarcely less 
vulgarity of those of the upper classes. 

I say this is as it should be ; it is just and fair 
as far as it goes ; and moreover the rich with their 
leisure are the more like to move if they feel the 
pinch themselves. 

But how shall they and we, and all of us, move ? 
What is the remedy } 

What remedy can there be for the blunders of 
civilization but further civilization } You do not 

The Beauty of Life. 89 

by any accident think that we have gone as far in 
that direction as it is possible to go, do you ? — 
even in England, I mean ? 

When some changes have come to pass, that 
perhaps will be speedier than most people think, 
doubtless education will both grow in quality and 
in quantity ; so that it may be, that as the nine- 
teenth century is to be called the Century of Com- 
merce, the twentieth may be called the Century of 
Education. But that education does not end when 
people leave school is now a mere commonplace ; 
and how then can you really educate men who lead 
the life of machines, who only think for the few hours 
during which they are not at work, who in short 
spend almost their whole lives in doing work which 
is not proper for developing them, body and mind, 
in some worthy way ? You cannot educate, you 
cannot civilize men, unless you can give them a 
share in art. 

Yes, and it is hard indeed as things go to give 
most men that share ; for they do not miss it, or 
ask for it, and it is impossible as things are that 
they should either miss or ask for it. Nevertheless 
everything has a beginning, and many great things 
have had very small ones ; and since, as I have 
said, these ideas are already abroad in more than 
one form, we must not be too much discouraged at 
the seemingly boundless weight we have to lift. 

After all, we are only bound to play our own 
parts, and do our own share of the lifting ; and as 

go The Beauty of Life. 

in no case that share can be great, so also in all 
cases it is called for, it is necessary. Therefore let 
us work and faint not ; remembering that though it 
be natural, and therefore excusable, amidst doubtful 
times to feel doubts of success oppress us at whiles, 
yet not to crush those doubts, and work as if we 
had them not, is simple cowardice, which is unfor- 
givable. No man has any right to say that all has 
been done for nothing, that all the faithful un- 
wearying strife of those who have gone before us 
shall lead us nowhither \ that mankind will but go 
round and round in a circle for ever : no man has a 
right to say that, and then get up morning after 
morning to eat his victuals and sleep a-nights, all 
the while making other people toil to keep his 
worthless life a-going. 

Be sure that some way or other will be found 
out of the tangle, even when things seem most 
tangled, and be no less sure that some use will then 
have come of our work, if it has been faithful, and 
therefore unsparingly careful and thoughtful. 

So once more I say, if in any matters civilization 
has gone astray, the remedy lies not in standing 
still, but in more complete civilization. 

Now whatever discussion there may be about 
that often used and often misused word, I believe 
all who hear me will agree with me in believing 
from their hearts, and not merely in saying in con- 
ventional phrase, that the civilization which does 
I not carry the whole people with it, is doomed to 

The Beauty of Life. 91 

fall, and give place to one which at least aims at 
doing so. 

We talk of the civilization of the ancient peoples, 
of the classical times : well, civilized they were no 
doubt, some of their folk at least : an Athenian 
citizen for instance led a simple, dignified, almost 
perfect life ; but there were drawbacks to happiness 
perhaps in the life of his slaves : and the civiUzation 
of the ancients was founded on slavery. 

Indeed that ancient society did give a model to 
the world, and showed us for ever what blessings 
are freedom of life and thought, self-restraint and a 
generous education : all those blessings the ancient 
free peoples set forth to the world — and kept them 
to themselves. 

Therefore no tyrant was too base, no pretext 
too hollow, for enslaving the grandsons of the men 
of Salamis and Thermopylae : therefore did the 
descendants of those stern and self-restrained 
Romans, who were ready to give up everything, 
and life as the least of things, to the glory of their 
commonweal, produce monsters of license and reck- 
less folly. Therefore did a little knot of Galilean 
peasants overthrow the Roman Empire. 

Ancient civilization was chained to slavery and 
exclusiveness, and it fell ; the barbarism that took 
its place has delivered us from slavery and grown 
into modern civilization : and that in its turn has 
before it the choice of never-ceasing growth, or 
destruction by that which has in it the seeds of 
higher growth. 

92 The Beatify of Life. 

There is an ugly word for a dreadful fact, which 
I must make bold to use — the residuum : that word, 
since the time I first saw it used, has had a terrible 
significance to me, and I have felt from my heart 
that if this residuum were a necessary part of 
modern civilization, as some people openly, and 
many more tacitly, assume that it is, then this 
civilization carries with it the poison that shall one 
day destroy it, even as its elder sister did : if 
civilization is to go no further than this, it had 
better not have gone so far : if it does not aim at 
getting rid of this misery and giving some share in 
the happiness and dignity of life to all the people 
that it has created, and which it spends such un- 
wearying energy in creating, it is simply an or- 
ganized injustice, a mere instrument for oppression, 
so much the worse than that which has gone before 
it, as its pretensions are higher, its slavery subtler, 
its mastery harder to overthrow, because supported 
by such a dense mass of commonplace well-being 
and comfort. 

Surely this cannot be : surely there is a dis- 
tinct feeling abroad of this injustice: so that if 
the residuum still clogs all the efforts of modern 
civilization to rise above mere population-breeding 
and money-making, the difficulty of dealing with it 
is the legacy, first of the ages of violence and 
almost conscious brutal injustice, and next of the 
ages of thoughtlessness, of hurry and blindness: 
surely all those who think at all of the future of 

The Beauty of Life. 93 

the world are at work in one way or other in 
striving to rid it of this shame. 

That to my mind is the meaning of what we 
call National Education, which we have begun, and 
which is doubtless already bearing its fruits, and 
will bear greater, when all people are educated, not 
according to the money which they or their parents 
possess, but according to the capacity of their 

What effect that will have upon the future of 
the arts, I cannot say, but one would surely think a 
very great effect ; for it will enable people to see 
clearly many things which are now as completely 
hidden from them as if they were blind in body and 
idiotic in mind : and this, I say, will act not only 
upon those who most directly feel the evils of 
ignorance, but also upon those who feel them indi- 
rectly, — upon us, the educated : the great wave of 
rising intelligence, rife with so many natural desires 
and aspirations, will carry all classes along with it, 
and force us all to see that many things which we 
have been used to look upon as necessary and 
eternal evils are merely the accidental and tempo* 
rary growths of past stupidity, and can be escaped 
from by due effort, and the exercise of courage, 
good-will, and forethought. 

And among those evils, I do, and must always, 
believe will fall that one which last year I told you 
that I accounted the greatest of all evils, the heaviest 
of all slaveries ; that evil of the greater part of the 

94 The Beauty of Life. 

population being engaged for by far the most part 
of their lives in work, which at the best cannot 
interest them, or develop their best faculties, and 
at the worst (and that is the commonest, too), is 
mere unmitigated slavish toil, only to be wrung out 
of them by the sternest compulsion, a toil which 
they shirk all they can — small blame to them. 
And this toil degrades them into less than men ; 
and they will some day come to know it, and cry 
out to be made men again, and art only can do it, 
and redeem them from this slavery ; and I say once 
more that this is her highest and most glorious end 
and aim ; and it is in her struggle to attain to it 
that she will most surely purify herself, and quicken 
her own aspirations towards perfection. 

But we — in the meantime we must not sit 
waiting for obvious signs of these later and 
glorious days to show themselves on earth, and 
in the heavens, but rather turn to at the common- 
place, and maybe often dull work of fitting our- 
selves in detail to take part in them if we should 
live to see one of them ; or in doing our best to 
make the path smooth for their coming, if we are 
to die before they are here. 

What, therefore, can we do, to guard traditions 
of time past that we may not one day have to 
begin anew from the beginning with none to teach 
us ? What are we to do, that we may take heed 
to, and spread the decencies of life, so that at the 
least we may have a field where it will be possible 

The Beauty of Life. 95 

for art to grow when men begin to long for it : 
what finally can we do, each of us, to cherish some 
germ of art, so that it may meet with others, and 
spread and grow little by little into the thing that 
we need ? 

Now I cannot pretend to think that the first of 
these duties is a matter of indifference to you, after 
my experience of the enthusiastic meeting that I 
had the honor of addressing here last autumn on 
the subject of the (so-called) restoration of St. 
Mark's at Venice ; you thought, and most justly 
thought, it seems to me, that the subject was of 
such moment to art in general, that it was a simple 
and obvious thing for men who were anxious on 
the matter to address themselves to those who had 
the decision of it in their hands ; even though the 
former were called Englishmen, and the latter 
Italians ; for you felt that the name of lovers of 
art would cover those differences : if you had any 
misgivings, you remembered that there was but 
one such building in the world, and that it was 
worth while risking a breach of etiquette, if any 
words of ours could do anything towards saving 
it : well, the Italians were, some of them, very 
naturally, though surely .unreasonably, irritated, 
for a time, and in some of their prints they bade 
us, look at home ! that was no argument in favor 
of the wisdom of wantonly rebuilding St. Mark's 
facade : but certainly those of us who have not yet 
looked at home in this matter had better do so 

96 The Beauty of L ife. 

speedily, late and over late though it be : for 
though we have no golden-pictured interiors like 
St. Mark's Church at home, we still have many 
buildings which are both works of ancient art and 
monuments of history: and just think what is 
happening to them, and note, since we profess to 
recognize their value, how helpless art is in the 
Century of Commerce ! 

In the first place, many and many a beautiful 
and ancient building is being destroyed all over 
civilized Europe as well as in England, because it 
is supposed to interfere with the convenience of 
the citizens, while a little forethought might save 
it without trenching on that convenience ;* but 
even apart from that, I say that if we are not 
prepared to put up with a little inconvenience in 
our lifetimes for the sake of preserving a monu- 
ment of art which will elevate and educate, not only 
ourselves, but our sons, and our sons' sons, it is 
vain and idle of us to talk about art — or education 
either. Brutality must be bred of such brutality. 

The same thing may be said about enlarging, 

* As I correct these sheets for the press, the case of two such 
pieces of destruction is forced upon me : first, the remains of the 
Refectory of Westminster Abbey, with the adjacent Ashburnham 
House, a beautiful work, probably by Inigo Jones ; and second, 
Magdalen Bridge at Oxford. Certainly this seems to mock my 
hope of the influence of education on the Beauty of Life ; since 
the first scheme of destruction is eagerly pressed forward by the 
authorities of Westminster School, the second scarcely opposed 
by the resident members of the University of Oxford. 

The Beauty of Life. 97 

or otherwise altering for convenience' sake, old 
buildings still in use for something like their 
original purposes : in almost all such cases it is 
really nothing more than a question of a little 
money for a new site ; and then a new building 
can be built exactly fitted for the uses it is needed 
for, with such art about it as our own days can 
furnish ; while the old monument is left to tell its 
tale of change and progress, to hold out example 
and warning to us in the practice of the arts : and 
thus the convenience of the public, the progress of 
modern art, and the cause of education, are all 
furthered at once at the cost of a little money. 

Surely if it be worth while troubling ourselves 
about the works of art of to-day, of which any 
amount almost can be done, since we are yet alive, 
it is worth while spending a little care, forethought, 
and money in preserving the art of by-gone ages, 
of which (woe worth the while !) so little is left, and 
of which we can never have any more, whatever 
good-hap the world may attain to. 

No man who consents to the destruction or the 
mutilation of an ancient building has any right to 
pretend that he cares about art ; or has any excuse 
to plead in defence of his crime against civilization 
and progress, save sheer brutal ignorance. 

But before I leave this subject I must say a 
word or two about the curious invention of our 
own days called Restoration, a method of dealing 
with works of by-gone days which, though not so 


98 The Beauty of Life. 

degrading in its spirit as downright destruction, is 
nevertheless little better in its results on the con- 
dition of those works of art : it is obvious that I 
have no time to argue the question out to-night, so 
I will only make these assertions : 

That ancient buildings, being both works of art 
and monuments of history, must obviously be 
treated with great care and delicacy ; that the 
imitative art of to-day is not, and cannot be the 
same thing as ancient art, and cannot replace it ; 
and that therefore if we superimpose this work on 
the old, we destroy it both as art and as a record 
of history ; lastly, that the natural weathering of 
the surface of a building is beautiful, and its loss 

Now the restorers hold the exact contrary of 
all this : they think that any clever architect to- 
day can deal off-hand successfully with the ancient 
work ; that while all things else have changed 
about us since (say) the thirteenth century, art has 
not changed, and that our workmen can turn out 
work identical with that of the thirteenth century ; 
and, lastly, that the weather-beaten surface of an 
ancient building is worthless, and to be got rid of 
wherever possible. 

You see the question is difficult to argue, because 
there seem to be no common grounds between the 
restorers and the anti-restorers : I appeal therefore 
to the public, and bid them note, that though our 
opinions may be wrong, the action we advise is not 

The Beauty of Life, 99 

rash : let the question be shelved awhile : if, as 
we are always pressing on people, due care be 
taken of these monuments, so that they shall not 
fall into disrepair, they will be always there to 
* restore ' whenever people think proper and when 
we are proved wrong ; but if it should turn out 
that we are right, how can the * restored ' buildings 
be restored ? I beg of you therefore to let the 
question be shelved, till art has so advanced among 
us, that we can deal authoritatively with it, till there 
is no longer any doubt about the matter. 

Surely these monuments of our art and history, 
which, whatever the lawyers may say, belong not 
to a coterie, or to a rich man here and there, but 
to the nation at large, are worth this delay : surely 
the last relics of the life of the 'famous men and 
our fathers that begat us' may justly claim of us 
the exercise of a little patience. 

It will give us trouble no doubt, all this care of 
our possessions : but there is more trouble to come ; 
for I must now speak of something else, of posses- 
sions which should be common to all of us, of the 
green grass, and the leaves, and the waters, of the 
very light and air of heaven, which the Century of 
Commerce has been too busy to pay any heed to. 
And first let me remind you that I am supposing 
every one here present professes to care about art. 

Well, there are some rich men among us whom 
we oddly enough call manufacturers, by which we 
mean capitaUsts who pay other men to organize 

lOO The Beauty of Life. 

manufactures ; these gentlemen, many of whom 
buy pictures and profess to care about art, burn 
a deal of coal; there is an act in existence which 
was passed to prevent them sometimes and in some 
places from pouring a dense cloud of smoke over 
the world, and, to my thinking, a very lame and 
partial act it is : but nothing hinders these lovers 
of art from being a law to themselves, and making 
it a point of honor with them to minimize the smoke 
nuisance as far as their own works are concerned ; 
and if they don't do so, when mere money, and even 
a very little of that, is what it will cost them, I 
say that their love of art is a mere pretence : how 
can you care about the image of a landscape when 
you show by your deeds that you don't care for the 
landscape itself ? or what right have you to shut 
yourself up with beautiful formx and color when you 
make it impossible for other people to have any 
share in these things ? 

Well, and as to the smoke act itself : I don't 
know what heed you pay to it in Birmingham,* but 
I have seen myself what heed is paid to it in other 
places ; Bradford for instance : though close by them 
at Saltaire they have an example which I should 
have thought might have shamed them ; for the 
huge chimney there which serves the acres of weav- 
ing and spinning sheds of Sir Titus Salt and his 

* Since perhaps some people may read these words who are 
not of Birmingham, I ought to say that it was authoritatively ex- 
plained at the meeting to which I addressed these words, that in 
Birmingham the law is strictly enforced. 

The Beauty of L ife, i o i 

brothers is as guiltless of smoke as an ordinary 
kitchen chimney. Or Manchester : a gentleman of 
that city told me that the smoke-act was a mere 
dead letter there : well, they buy pictures in Man- 
chester and profess to wish to further the arts ; but 
you see it must be idle pretence as far as their rich 
people are concerned : they only want to talk about 
it, and have themselves talked of. 

I don't know what you are doing about this 
matter here ; but you must forgive my saying, that 
unless you are beginning to think of some way of 
dealing with it, you are not beginning yet to pave 
your way to success in the arts. 

Well, I have spoken of a huge nuisance, which is 
a type of the worst nuisances of what an ill-tempered 
man might be excused for calling the Century of 
Nuisances, rather than the Century of Commerce. 
I will now leave it to the consciences of the rich and 
influential among us, and speak of a minor nuisance 
which it is in the power of every one of us to abate, 
and which, small as it is, is so vexatious, that if I 
can prevail on a score of you to take heed to it by 
what I am saying, I shall think my evening's work 
a good one. Sandwich-papers I mean — of course 
you laugh ; but come now, don't you, civilized as 
you are in Birmingham, leave them all about the 
Lickey hills and your public gardens and the like } 
If you don't, I really scarcely know with what words 
to praise you. When we Londoners go to enjoy 
ourselve3 at Hampton Court, for instance, we take 

I02 The BeaiUy of Life. 

special good care to let everybody know that we 
have had something to eat ; so that the park just 
outside the gates (and a beautiful place it is) looks 
as if it had been snowing dirty paper. I really 
think you might promise me one and all who are 
here present to have done with this sluttish habit, 
which is the type of many another in its way, just 
as the smoke-nuisance is. I mean such things as 
scrawling one's name on monuments, tearing down 
tree boughs, and the like. 

I suppose 'tis early days in the revival of the 

arts to express one's disgust at the daily increasing 

hideousness of the posters with which all our towns 

are daubed. Still we ought to be disgusted at such 

horrors, and I think make up our minds never to 

^^buy any of the articles so advertised. I can't be- 

C^^P'' lieve they can be worth much if they need all that 

'%j^ '^ shouting to sell them. 

Again, I must ask what do you do with the trees 
on a site that is going to be built over ? do you try 
to save them, to adapt your houses at all to them ? 
do you understand what treasures they are in a 
town or a suburb ? or what a relief they will be to 
the hideous dog-holes which (forgive me !) you are 
probably going to build in their places ? I ask this 
anxiously, and with grief in my soul, for in London 
and its suburbs we always * begin by clearing a site 

* Not g'm'fe always : in the little colony at Bedford Park, Chis- 
wick, as many trees have been left as possible, to the boundless 
advantage of its quaint and pretty architecture. 

The Beauty of Life. , 103 

till it is as bare as the pavement : I really think 
that almost anybody would have been shocked, if I 
could have shown him some of the trees that have 
been wantonly murdered in the suburb in which I 
live (Hammersmith to wit), amongst them some of 
those magnificent cedars, for which we along the 
river used to be famous once. 

But here again see how helpless those are who 
care about art or nature amidst the hurry of the 
Century of Commerce. 

Pray do not forget, that any one who cuts down 
a tree wantonly or carelessly, especially in a great 
town or its suburbs, need make no pretence of 
caring about art. 

What else can we do to help to educate ourselves 
and others in the path of art, to be on the road to 
attaining an Art made by the people and for the people 
as a joy to the maker and the ttser ? 

Why, having got to understand something of 
what art was, having got to look upon its ancient 
monuments as friends that can tell us something of 
times bygone, and whose faces we do not wish to 
alter, even though they be worn by time and grief : 
having got to spend money and trouble upon matters 
of decency, great and little ; having made it clear 
that we really do care about nature even in the 
suburbs of a big town — having got so far, we 
shall begin to think of the houses in which we 

For I must tell you that unless you are resolved 

I04 The Beauty of Life. 

to have good and rational architecture, it is, once 
again, useless your thinking about art at all. 

I have spoken of the popular arts, but they 
might all be summed up in that one word Archi- 
tecture ; they are all parts of that great whole, and 
the art of house-building begins it all : if we did 
not know how to dye or to weave ; if we had 
neither gold, nor silver, nor silk; and no pig- 
ments to paint with, but half-a-dozen ochres and 
umbers, we might yet frame a worthy art that 
would lead to everything, if we had but timber, 
stone, and lime, and a few cutting tools to make 
these common things not only shelter us from wind 
and weather, but also express the thoughts and 
aspirations that stir in us. 

Architecture would lead us to all the arts, as it 
did with earlier men : but if we despise it and take 
no note of how we are housed, the other arts will 
have a hard time of it indeed. 

Now I do not think the greatest of optimists 
would deny that, taking us one and all, we are at 
present housed in a perfectly shameful way, and 
since the greatest part of us have to live in houses 
already built for us, it must be admitted that it is 
rather hard to know what to do, beyond waiting 
till they tumble about our ears. 

Only we must not lay the fault upon the builders, 
as some people seem inclined to do : they are our 
very humble servants, and will build what we ask 
for : remember, that rich men are not obliged to 

The Beauty of Life. 105 

live in ugly houses, and yet you see they do ; which 
the builders may be well excused for taking as a 
sign of what is wanted. 

Well, the point is we must do what we can, and 
make people understand what we want them to do 
for us, by letting them see what we do for our- 

Hitherto, judging us by that standard, the build- 
ers may well say, that we want the pretence of 
a thing rather than the thing itself; that we want 
a show of petty luxury if we are unrich, a show of 
insulting stupidity if we are rich : and they are 
quite clear that as a rule we want to get something 
that shall look as if it cost twice as much as it 
really did. 

You cannot have Architecture on those terms : 
simpiicjty^^nd^^^^^^s^^^ are the very first requisites 

of it: just think if it is not so: How we please 
ourselves with an old building by thinking of all the 
generations of men that have passed through it! 
Do we not remember how it has received their joy, 
and borne their sorrow, and not even their folly has 
left sourness upon it.-^ It still looks as kind to us, as 
it did to them. And the converse of this we ought 
to feel when we look at a newly-built house if it 
were as it should be : we should feel a pleasure in 
thinking how he who had built it had left a piece of 
his soul behind him to greet the new-comers one 
after another long and long after he was gone : — 
but what sentiment can an ordinary modern house 

io6 The Beauty of Life. 

move in us, or what thought — save a hope that we 
may speedily forget its base ugHness ? 

But if you ask me how we are to pay for this 
solidity and extra expense, that seems to me a 
reasonable question ; for you must dismiss at once 
as a delusion the hope that has been sometimes 
cherished, that you can have a building which is 
a work of art, and is therefore above all things 
properly built, at the same price as a building 
which only pretends to be this : never forget when 
people talk about cheap art in general, by the way, 
that all art costs time, trouble, and thought, and 
that money is only a counter to represent these 

Flow^ever I must try to answer the question I 
have supposed put, how are w^e to pay for decent 
houses ? 

It seems to me that by a great piece of good 
luck the way to pay for them, is by doing that 
which alone can produce popular art among us : 
living a simple life, I mean. Once more I say that 
the greatest foe to art is luxury, art cannot live in 
its atmosphere. 

When you hear of the luxuries of the ancients, 
you must remember that they were not like our 
luxuries, they were rather indulgence in pieces of 
extravagant folly than what we to-day call luxury ; 
which perhaps you would rather call comfort : well, 
I accept the word, and say that a Greek or Roman 
of the luxurious time would stare astonished could 

The Beauty of Life. 107 

he be brought back again, and shown the comforts 
of a well-to-do middle-class house. 

But some, I know, think that the attainment of 
these very comforts is what makes the difference I 
between civilization and uncivilization, that they are I \,,^^^ 
the essence of civilization. Is it so indeed } Fare- \ 
well my hope then! — I had thought that civiliza- ' ^ - / 
tion meant the attainment of peace and order and 
freedom, of good-will between man and man, of the 
love of truth, and the hatred of injustice, and 
by consequence the attainment of the good Hfe 
which these things breed, a life free from craven 
fear, but full of incident : that was what I thought 
it meant, not more stuffed chairs and more cush- 
ions, and more carpets and gas, and more dainty 
meat and drink — and therewithal more and sharper 
differences between class and class. 

If that be what it is, I for my part wish I were 
well out of it, and living in a tent in the Persian 
desert, or a turf hut on the Iceland hill-side. But 
however it be, and I think my view is the true 
view, I tell you that art abhors that side of civi- 
lization, she cannot breathe in the houses that lie 
under its stuffy slavery. 

Believe me if we want art to begin at home, as it 
must, we must clear our houses of troublesome super- 
fluities that are for ever in our way : conventional 
comforts that are no real comforts, and do but make 
work for servants and doctors : if you want a 
golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it : 

1 08 The Beauty of Life. 

^ Have nothing in your houses that you do not 
know to be useful^ or believe to be beautiful! 

And if we apply that rule strictly, we shall in 
the first place show the builders and such-like ser- 
vants of the public what we really want, we shall 
create a demand for real art, as the phrase goes ; 
and in the second place, we shall surely have more 
money to pay for decent houses. 

Perhaps it will not try your patience too much 
if I lay before you my idea of the fittings necessary 
to the sitting-room of a healthy person : a room, I 
mean, which he would not have to cook in much, 
or sleep in generally, or in which he would not 
have to do any very litter-making manual work. 

First a book-case with a great many books in it : 
next a table that will keep steady when you write 
or work at it : then several chairs that you can 
move, and a bench that you can sit or He upon : 
next a cupboard with drawers : next, unless either 
the book-case or the cupboard be very beautiful 
with painting or carving, you will want pictures or 
\ engravings, such as you can afford, only not stop- 
I gaps, but real works of art on the wall ; or elsefhe" 
wall itself must be ornamented with some beautiful 
and restful pattern : we shall also want a vase or 
two to put flowers in, which latter you must have 
sometimes, especially if you live in a town. Then 
there will be the fireplace of course, which in our 
climate is bound to be the chief object in the 

The Beauty of Life. 109 

That is all we shall want, especially if the floor 
be good ; if it be not, as, by the way, in a modern 
house it is pretty certain not to be, I admit that a 
small carpet which can be bundled out of the room 
in two minutes will be useful, and we must also 
take care that it is beautiful, or it will annoy us 

Now unless we are musical, and need a piano (in 
which case, as far as beauty is concerned, we are in | 
a bad way), that is quite all we want : and we can | 
add very little to these necessaries without troubling 
ourselves, and hindering our work, our thought, and 
our rest. 

If these things were done at the least cost for 
which they could be done well and solidly, they 
ought not to cost much ; and they are so few, that 
those that could afford to have them at all, could 
afford to spend some trouble to get them fitting 
and beautiful : and all those who care about art 
ought to take great trouble to do so, and to take 
care that there be no sham art amongst them, 
nothing that it has degraded a man to make or 
sell. And I feel sure, that if all who care about 
art were to take this pains, it would make a great 
impression upon the public. 

This simplicity you may make as costly as you 
please or can, on the other hand : you may hang 
your walls with tapestry instead of whitewash or 
paper ; or you may cover them with mosaic, or 
have them frescoed by a great painter : all this is 

no The Beauty of Life. 

not luxury, if it be done for beauty's sake, and not 
for show : it does not break our golden rule : Have 
nothing in your houses which you do 7iot know to be 
useful or believe to be beautiful. 

All art starts from this simplicity ; and the higher 
the art rises, the greater the simplicity. I have 
been speaking of the fittings of a dwelling-house ; 
a place in which we eat and drink, and pass familiar 
hours ; but when you come to places which people 
want to make more specially beautiful because of 
the solemnity or dignity of their uses, they will be 
simpler still, and have little in them save the bare 
walls made as beautiful as may be. St. Mark's at 
Venice has very little furniture in it, much less than 
most Roman Catholic churches : its lovely and 
stately mother St. Sophia of Constantinople had 
less still, even when it was a Christian Church : 
but we need not go either to Venice or Stamboul 
to take note of that : go into one of our own mighty 
Gothic naves (do any of you remember the first 
time you did so 1) and note how the huge free 
space satisfies and elevates you, even now when 
window and wall are stripped of ornament : then 
think of the meaning of simplicity, and absence of 
encumbering gew-gaws. 

Now after all, for us who are learning art, it is 
not far to seek what is the surest way to further it : 
that which most breeds art is art : every piece of 
work that we do which is well done, is so much 
help to the cause ; every piece of pretence and 

The Beauty of Life. 1 1 1 

half-heartedness is so much hurt to it : most of 
you who take to the practice of art can find out 
in no very long time whether you have any gifts 
for it or not : if you have not, throw the thing up, 
or you will have a wretched time of it yourselves, 
and will be damaging the cause by laborious pre- 
tence : but if you have gifts of any kind you are 
happy indeed beyond most men ; for your pleasure 
is always with you, nor can you be intemperate in 
the enjoyment of it, and as you use it, it does not 
lessen, but grows : if you are by chance weary of it 
at night, you get up in the morning eager for it; or 
if perhaps in the morning it seems folly to you for 
a while, yet presently, when your hand has been 
moving a little in its wonted way, fresh hope has 
sprung up beneath it and you are happy again. 
While others are getting through the day like plants 
thrust into the earth, which cannot turn this way 
or that but as the wind blows them, you know what 
you want, and your will is on the alert to find it, 
and you, whatever happens, whether it be joy or 
grief, are at least alive. 

Now when I spoke to you last year, after I had 
sat down I was half afraid that I had on some 
points said too much, that I had spoken too 
bitterly in my eagerness ; that a rash word might 
have discouraged some of you : I was very far 
from meaning that : what I wanted to do, what I 
want to do to-night is to put definitely before you 
a cause for which to strive. 

1 1 2 The Beauty of Life. 

That cause is the Democracy of Art, the enno- 
bling of daily and common work, which will one 
day put hope and pleasure in the place of fear and 
pain, as the forces which move men to labor and 
keep the world a-going. 

If I have enlisted any one in that cause, rash as 
my words may have been, or feeble as they may 
have been, they have done more good than harm ; 
nor do I believe that any words of mine can dis- 
courage any who have joined that cause or are 
ready to do so : their way is too clear before them 
for that, and every one of us can help the cause 
whether he be great or little. 

I know indeed that men, wearied by the pettiness 
of the details of the strife, their patience tried by 
hope deferred, will at whiles, excusably enough, 
turn back in their hearts to other days, when, if 
the issues were not clearer, the means of trying 
them were simpler ; when, so stirring were the 
times, one might even have atoned for many a 
blunder and backsliding by visibly dying for the 
cause : to have breasted the Spanish pikes at 
Leyden, to have drawn sword with Oliver : that 
may well seem to us at times amidst the tangles of 
to-day a happy fate : for a man to be able to say, 
I have lived like a fool, but now I will cast away 
fooling for an hour, and die like a man — there is 
something in that certainly : and yet 't is clear that 
few men can be so lucky as to die for a cause, 
without having first of all lived for it. And as this 

The Beauty of Life. 1 1 3 

is the most that can be asked from the greatest 
man that follows a cause, so it is the least that can 
be taken from the smallest. 

So to us who have a Cause at heart, our highest 
ambition and our simplest duty are one and the 
same thing : for the most part we shall be too busy 
doing the work that lies ready to our hands, to let 
impatience for visibly great progress vex us much ; 
but surely since we are servants of a Cause, hope 
must be ever with us, and sometimes perhaps it 
will so quicken our vision that it will out-run the 
slow lapse of time, and show us the victorious days 
when millions of those who now sit in darkness 
will be enlightened by an Art made by the people 
and for the people^ a joy to the maker and the tiserz 


I HAVE to-night to talk to you about certain things 
which my experience in my own craft has led me 
to notice, and which have bred in my mind some- 
thing like a set of rules or maxims, which guide my 
practice. Every one who has followed a craft for 
long has such rules in his mind, and cannot help 
following them himself, and insisting on them prac- 
tically in dealing with his pupils or workmen if he 
is in any degree a master ; and when these rules, 
or if you will, impulses, are filling the minds and 
guiding the hands of many craftsmen at one time, 
they are busy forming a distinct school, and the art 
they represent is sure to be at least alive, however 
rude, timid, or lacking it may be ; and the more 
imperious these rules are, the wider these im- 
pulses are spread, the more vigorously alive will be 
the art they produce ; whereas in times when they 
are felt but lightly and rarely, when one man's 
maxims seem absurd or trivial to his brother crafts- 
man, art is either sick or slumbering, or so thinly 
scattered amongst the great mass of men as to 
influence the general life of the world little or 

Making the Best of it, 115 

For though this kind of rules of a craft may seem 
to some arbitrary, I think that it is because they are 
the result of such intricate combinations of circum- 
stances, that only a great philosopher, if even he, 
could express in words the sources of them, and 
give us reasons for them all, and we who are crafts- 
men must be content to prove them in practice, 
believing that their roots are founded in human 
nature, even as we know that their firstfruits are to 
be found in that most wonderful of all histories, the 
history of the arts. 

Will you, therefore, look upon me as a crafts- 
man who shares certain impulses with many others, 
which impulses forbid him to question the rules 
they have forced on him ? so looking on me you 
may afford perhaps to be more indulgent to me if 
I seem to dogmatize over much. 

Yet I cannot claim to represent any one craft. 
The division of labor, which has played so great a 
part in furthering competitive commerce, till it has 
become a machine with powers both reproductive 
and destructive, which few dare to resist, and none 
can control or foresee the result of, has pressed 
specially hard on that part of the field of human 
culture in which I was born to labor. That field 
of the arts, whose harvest should be the chief part 
of human joy, hope, and consolation, has been, I 
say, dealt hardly with by the division of labor, 
once the servant, and now the master of competi- 
tive commerce, itself once the servant, and now the 

1 1 6 Making the Best of it. 

master of civilization ; nay, so searching has been 
this tyranny, that it has not passed by my own in- 
significant corner of labor, but as it has thwarted 
me in many ways, so chiefly perhaps in this, that 
it has so stood in the way of my getting the help 
from others which my art forces me to crave, that 
I have been compelled to learn many crafts, and 
belike, according to the proverb, forbidden to mas- 
ter any, so that I fear my lecture will seem to you 
both to run over too many things and not to go 
deep enough into any. 

I cannot help it. That above-mentioned tyranny 
has turned some of us from being, as we should be^ 
contented craftsmen, into being discontented agita- 
tors against it, so that our minds are not at rest, 
even when we have to talk over workshop receipts 
and maxims ; indeed I must confess that I should 
hold my peace on all matters connected with the 
arts, if I had not a lurking hope to stir up both 
others and myself to discontent with and rebellion 
against things as they are, clinging to the further 
hope that our discontent may be fruitful and our 
rebellion steadfast, at least to the end of our own 
lives, since we believe that we are rebels not against 
the laws of Nature, but the customs of folly. 

Nevertheless, since even rebels desire to live^ 
and since even they must sometimes crave for rest 
and peace — nay, since they must, as it were, make 
for themselves strongholds from whence to carry on 
the strife — we ou^ht not to be accused of incon- 

Making the Best of it. 117 

sistency, if to-night we consider how to make the 
best of it. By what forethought, pains, and pa- 
tience, can we make endurable those strange 
dwellings — the basest, the ugliest, and the most 
inconvenient that men have ever built for them- 
selves, and which our own haste, necessity, and stu- 
pidity, compel almost all of us to live in ? That is 
our present question. 

In dealing with this subject, I shall perforce be 
chiefly speaking of those middle-class dwellings of 
which I know most ; but what I have to say will be 
as applicable to any other kind ; for there is no 
dignity or unity of plan about any modern house, 
big or little. It has neither centre nor individual- 
ity, but is invariably a congeries of rooms tumbled 
together by chance hap. So that the unit I have 
to speak of is a room rather than a house. 

Now there may be some here who have the good 
luck to dwell in those noble buildings which, our 
forefathers built, out of their very souls, one may 
say ; such good luck I call about the greatest that 
can befall a man in these days. But these happy 
people have little to do with our troubles of to-night, 
save as sympathetic onlookers. All we have to do 
with them is to remind them not to forget their 
duties to those places, which they doubtless love 
well ; not to alter them or torment them to suit any 
passing whim or convenience, but to deal with them 
as if their builders, ->>to whom they owe so much, 
could still be wounded by the griefs and rejoice in 

1 1 8 Making the Best of it, 

the well-doing of their ancient homes. Surely if 
they do this, they also will neither be forgotten 
nor unthanked in the time to come. 

There may be others here who dwell in houses 
that can scarcely be called noble- — nay, as com- 
pared with the last-named kind, may be almost 
called ignoble — but their builders still had some 
traditions left them of the times of art. They are 
built solidly and conscientiously at least, and if 
they have Httle or no beauty, yet have a certain 
common-sense and convenience about them ; nor 
do they fail to represent the manners and feelings 
of their own time. The earliest of these, built 
about the reign of Queen Anne, stretch out a 
hand toward the Gothic times, and are not with- 
out picturesqueness, especially when their sur- 
roundings are beautiful. The latest built in the 
latter days of the Georges are certainly quite guilt- 
less of picturesqueness, but are, as above said, solid, 
and not inconvenient. All these houses, both the 
so-called Queen Anne ones and the distinctively 
Georgian, are difficult enough to decorate, espe- 
cially for those who have any leaning toward ro- 
mance, because they have still some style left in 
them which one cannot ignore ; at the same time 
that it is impossible for any one living out of the 
time in which they were built to sympathize with 
a style whose characteristics are mere whims, not 
founded on any principle. Still they are at the 
worst not aggressively ugly or base, and it is pos- 

Making the Best of it, 119 

sible to live in them without serious disturbance to 
our work or thoughts ; so that by the force of con- 
trast they have become bright spots in the pre- 
vailing darkness of ugliness that has covered all 
modern life. 

But we must not forget that that rebellion which 
we have met here, I hope, to further, has begun, 
and to-day shows visible tokens of its life ; for of 
late there have been houses rising up among us 
here and there which have certainly not been 
planned either by the common cut-and-dried de- 
signers for builders, or by academical imitators of 
bygone styles. Though they may be called experi- 
mental, no one can say that they are not born of 
thought and principle, as well as of great capacity 
for design. It is nowise our business to-night to 
criticise them. I suspect their authors, who have 
gone through so many difficulties (not of their own 
breeding) in producing them know their short- 
comings much better than we can do, and are less 
elated by their successes than we are. At any 
rate, they are gifts to our country which will always 
be respected, whether the times better or worsen, 
and I call upon you to thank their designers most 
heartily for their forethought, labor, and hope. 

Well, I have spoken of three qualifications to 
that degradation of our dwellings which charac- 
terizes this period of history only. 

First, there are the very few houses which have 
been left us from the times of art. Except that we 

1 20 Making the Best of it, 

may sometimes have the pleasure of seeing these, 
we most of us have httle enough to do with them. 

Secondly, there are those houses of the times 
when, though art was sick and all but dead, men 
had not quite given it up as a bad job, and at any 
rate had not learned systematic bad building ; and 
when, moreover, they had what they wanted, and 
their lives were expressed by their architecture. 
Of these there are still left a good many all over 
the country, but they are lessening fast before the 
irresistible force of competition, and will soon be 
very rare indeed. 

Thirdly, there are a few houses built and mostly 
inhabited by the ringleaders of the rebellion against 
sordid ugliness, which we are met here to further 
to-night. It is clear that as yet these are very few, 
or you could never have thought it worth your 
while to come here to hear the simple words I have 
to say to you on this subject. 

Now, these are the exceptions. The rest is 
what really amounts to the dwellings of all our 
people, which are built without any hope of beauty 
or care for it — without any thought that there can 
be any pleasure in the look of an ordinary dwelling- 
house, and also (in consequence of this neglect of 
manliness) with scarce any heed to real conveni- 
ence. It will, I hope, one day be hard to believe 
that such houses were built for a people not lacking 
in honesty, in independence of life, in elevation of 
thought, and consideration for others ; not a whit 

Making the Best of it. 1 2 1 

of all that do they express, but rather hypocrisy, 
flunkyism, and careless selfishness. The fact is, 
they are no longer part of our lives. We have 
given it up as a bad job. We are heedless if our 
houses express nothing of us but the very worst 
side of our character both national and personal. 

This unmanly heedlessness, so injurious to civi- 
lization, so unjust to those that are to follow us, 
is the very thing we want to shake people out of. 
We want to make them think about their homes, 
to take the trouble to turn them into dwellings fit 
for people free in mind and body — much might 
come of that I think. 

Now, to my mind, the first step towards this end 
is, to follow the fashion of our nation, so often, so 
very often, called practical, and leaving for a little 
an ideal scarce conceivable, to try to get people 
to bethink them of what we can best do with 
those makeshifts which we cannot get rid of all at 

I know that those lesser arts, by which alone 
this can be done, are looked upon by many wise 
and witty people as not worth the notice of a 
sensible man ; but, since I am addressing a society 
of artists, I believe I am speaking to people who 
have got beyond even that stage of wisdom and 
wit, and that you think all the arts of importance. 
Yet, indeed, I should think I had but little claim 
on your attention if I deemed the question involved 
nothing save the gain of a little more content and 

12 2 Making the Best of it. 

a little more pleasure for those who already have 
abundance of content and pleasure ; let me say it, 
that either I have erred in the aim of my whole 
life, or that the welfare of these lesser arts involves 
the question of the content and self-respect of all 
craftsmen, whether you call them artists or artisans. 
So I say again, my hope is that those who begin 
to consider carefully how to make the best of the 
chambers in which they eat and sleep and study, 
and hold converse with their friends, will breed in 
their minds a wholesome and fruitful discontent 
with the sordidness that even when they haA^e done 
their best will surround their island of comfort, 
and that as they try to appease this discontent 
they will find that there is no way out of it but 
by insisting that all men's work shall be fit for free 
men and not for machines : my extravagant hope 
is that people will some day learn something of 
art, and so long for more, and will find, as I have, 
that there is no getting it save by the general 
acknowledgment of the right of every man to have 
fit work to do in a beautiful home. Therein lies 
all that is indestructible of the pleasure of life ; no 
man need ask for more than that, no man should 
be granted less ; and if he falls short of it, it is 
through waste and injustice that he is kept out of 
his birthright. 

And now I will try what I can do in my hints 
on this making the best of it, first asking your par- 
don for this, that I shall have to give a great deal 

Making the Best of it. 123 

of negative advice, and be always saying ' don't ' — 
that, as you knov/, being much the lot of those who 
profess reform. 

Before we go inside our house, nay, before we 
look at its outside, we may consider its garden, 
chiefly with reference to town gardening ; which, 
indeed, I, in common, I suppose, with most others 
who have tried it, have found uphill work enough 
— all the more as in our part of the world few in- 
deed have any mercy upon the one thing necessary 
for decent life in a town, its trees ; till we have 
come to this, that one trembles at the very sound 
of an axe as one sits at one's work at home. How- 
ever, uphill work or not, the town garden must not 
be neglected if we are to be in earnest in making 
the best of it. 

Now I am bound to say town gardeners gene- 
rally do rather the reverse of that : our suburban 
gardeners in London, for instance, oftenest wind 
about their little bit of gravel walk and grass plot 
in ridiculous imitation of an ugly big garden of the 
landscape-gardening style, and then with a strange 
perversity fill up the spaces with the most formal 
plants they can get ; whereas the merest common 
sense should have taught them to lay out their 
morsel of ground in the simplest way, to fence it as 
orderly as might be, one part from the other (if it be 
big enough for that) and the whole from the road, 
and then to fill up the flower-growing space with 
things that are free and interesting in their growth, 

124 Making the Best of it 

leaving nature to do the desired complexity, which 
she will certainly not fail to do if we do not desert 
her for the florist, who, I must say, has made it 
harder work than it should be to get the best of 

It is scarcely a digression to note his way of 
dealing with flowers, which, moreover, gives us an 
apt ilkistration of that change without thought of 
beauty, change for the sake of change, which has 
played such a great part in the degradation of art 
in all times. So I ask you to note the way he has 
treated the rose, for instance : the rose has been 
grown double from I don't know when ; the double 
rose was a gain to the world, a new beauty was 
given us by it, and nothing taken away, since the 
wild rose grows in every hedge. Yet even then one 
might be excused for thinking that the wild rose 
was scarce improved on, for nothing can be more 
beautiful in general growth or in detail than a way- 
side bush of it, nor can any scent be as sweet and 
pure as its scent. Nevertheless the garden rose 
had a new beauty of abundant form, while its leaves 
had not lost the wonderfully delicate texture of the 
wild one. The full color it had gained, from the 
blush rose to the damask, was pure and true amidst 
all its added force, and though its scent had cer- 
tainly lost some of the sweetness of the eglantine, 
it was fresh still, as well as so abundantly rich. 
Well, all that lasted till quite our own day, when 
the florists fell upon the rose — men who could 

Making the Best of it. 125 

never have enough — they strove for size and got 
it, a fine specimen of a florist's rose being about as 
big as a moderate Savoy cabbage. They tried for 
strong scent and got it — till a florist's rose has not 
unseldom a suspicion of the scent of the aforesaid 
cabbage — not at its best. They tried for strong 
color, and got it, strong and bad — like a con- 
queror. But all this while they missed the very 
essence of the rose's being ; they thought there 
was nothing in it but redundance and luxury ; 
they exaggerated these into coarseness, while 
they threw away the exquisite subtility of form, 
delicacy of texture, and sweetness of color, which, 
blent with the richness which the true garden rose 
shares with many other flowers, yet makes it the 
queen of them all — the flower of flowers. Indeed, 
the worst of this is that these sham roses are driv- 
ing the real ones out of existence. If we do not 
look to it our descendants will know nothing of the 
cabbage rose, the loveliest in form of all, or the 
blush rose with its dark green stems and unequalled 
color, or the yellow-centred rose of the East, which 
carries the richness of scent to the very furthest 
point it can go without losing freshness : they will 
know nothing of all these, and I fear they will 
reproach the poets of past time for having done 
according to their wont, and exaggerated grossly 
the beauties of the rose. 

Well, as a Londoner perhaps I have said too 
much of roses, since we can scarcely grow them 

126 Making the Best of it. 

among suburban smoke ; but what I have said of 
them applies to other flowers, of which I will say 
this much more. Be very shy of double flowers ; 
choose the old columbine where the clusterino: 
doves are unmistakable and distinct, not the 
double one, where they run into mere tatters. 
Choose (if you can get it) the old china-aster with 
the yellow centre, that goes so well with the purple- 
brown stems and curiously colored florets, instead 
of the lumps that look like cut paper, of which we 
are now so proud. Don't be swindled out of that 
wonder of beauty, a single snowdrop ; there is no 
gain and plenty of loss in the double one. More 
loss still in the double sunflower, which is a coarse- 
colored and dull plant, whereas the single one, 
though a late comer to our gardens, is by no means 
to be despised, since it will grow anywhere, and is 
both interesting and beautiful, with its sharply 
chiselled yellow florets relieved by the quaintly 
patterned sad-colored centre clogged with honey 
and beset with bees and butterflies. 

So much for over-artificiality in flowers. A word 
or two about the misplacing of them. Don't have 
ferns in your garden. The hart's-tongue in the 
clefts of the rock, the queer things that grow 
within reach of the spray of the waterfall ; these 
are right in their places. Still more the brake on 
the woodside, whether in late autumn, when its 
withered haulm helps out the well-remembered 
woodland scent, or in spring, when it is thrusting 

Making the Best of it. 127 

its volutes through last year's waste. But all this 
is nothing to a garden, and is not to be got out of 
it ; and if you try it you will take away from it all 
possible romance, the romance of a garden. 

The same thing may be said about many plants, 
which are curiosities only, which Nature meant to 
be grotesque, not beautiful, and which are generally 
the growth of hot countries, where things sprout 
over quick and rank. Take note that the strangest 
of these come from the jungle and the tropical 
waste, from places where man is not at home, but 
is an intruder, an enemy. Go to a botanical garden 
and look at them, and think of those strange places 
to your heart's content. But don't set them to 
starve in your smoke-drenched scrap of ground 
amongst the bricks, for they will be no ornament 
to it. 

As to color in gardens. Flowers in masses are 
mighty strong color, and if not used with a great 
deal of caution are very destructive to pleasure in 
gardening. On the whole, I think the best and 
safest plan is to mix up your flowers, and rather 
eschew great masses of color — in combination I 
mean. But there are some flowers (inventions of 
men, i.e, florists) which are bad color altogether, 
and not to be used at all. Scarlet geraniums, for 
instance, or the yellow calceolaria, which indeed 
are not uncommonly grown together profusely, in 
order, I suppose, to show that even flowers can be 
thoroughly ugly. 

128 Making the Best of it. 

Another thing also much too commonly seen is 
an aberration of the human mind, which otherwise 
I should have been ashamed to warn you of. It is 
technically called carpet-gardening. Need I explain 
it further 1 I had rather not, for when I think of it 
even when I am quite alone I blush with shame at 
the thought. 

I am afraid it is specially necessary m these days 
when making the best of it is a hard job, and when 
the ordinary iron hurdles are so common and so 
destructive of any kind of beauty in a garden, to 
say when you fence anything in a garden use a live 
hedge, or stones set flatwise (as they do in some 
parts of the Cotswold country), or timber, or wattle, 
or, in short, anything but iron,* 

And now to sum up as to a garden. Large or 
small, it should look both orderly and rich. It 
should be well fenced from the outside world. It 
should by no means imitate either the wilfulness or 
the wildness of Nature, but should look like a thing 
never to be seen except near a house. It should, 
in fact, look like a part of the house. It follows 
from this that no private pleasure-garden should be 
very big, and a public garden should be divided and 
made to look like so many flower-closes in a mead- 
ow, or a wood, or amidst the pavement. 

* I know that well-designed hammered iron trellises and gates 
have been used happily enough, though chiefly in rather grandiose 
gardens, and so they might be again — one of these days — but I 
fear not yet awhile. 

Making the Best of it. 129 

It will be a key to right thinking about gardens if 
you consider in what kind of places a garden is most 
desired. In a very beautiful country, especially if it 
be mountainous, we can do without it well enough ; 
whereas in a flat and dull country we crave after it, 
and there it is often the very making of the home- 
stead. While in great towns, gardens, both private 
and public, are positive necessities if the citizens 
are to live reasonable and healthy lives in body and 

So much for the garden, of which, since I have 
said that it ought to be part of the house, I hope I 
have not spoken too much. 

Now, as to the outside of our makeshift house, 
I fear it is too ugly to keep us long. Let what 
painting you have to do about it be as simple as 
possible, and be chiefly white or whitish ; for when 
a building is ugly in form it will bear no decoration, 
and to mark its parts by varying color will be the 
way to bring out its ugliness. So I don't advise 
you to paint your houses blood-red and chocolate 
with white facings, as seems to be getting the 
fashion in some parts of London. You should, 
however, always paint your sash-bars and window- 
frames white to break up the dreary space of window 
somewhat. The only other thing I have to say, is 
to warn you against using at all a hot brownish-red, 
which some decorators are very fond of. Till some 
one invents a better name for it, let us call it cock- 
roach color, and have nought to do with it. 


1 30 Making the Best of it. 

So we have got to the inside of our house, and 
are in the room we have to live in, call it by what 
name you will. As to its proportions, it will be 
great luck indeed in an ordinary modern house if 
they are tolerable ; but let us hope for the best. If 
it is to be well proportioned, one of its parts, either 
its height, length, or breadth, ought to exceed the 
others, or be marked somehow. If it be square, or 
so nearly as to seem so, it should not be high ; if it 
be long and narrow, it might be high without any 
harm, but yet would be more interesting low ; 
whereas if it be an obvious but moderate oblong 
on plan, great height will be decidedly good. 

As to the parts of a room that we have to think 
of, they are wall, ceiling, floor, windows and doors, 
fireplace, and movables. Of these the wall is of so 
much the most importance to a decorator, and will 
lead us so far afield that I will mostly clear off* the 
other parts first, as to the mere arrangement of 
them, asking you meanwhile to understand that 
the greater part of what I shall be saying as to the 
design of the patterns for the wall, I consider more 
or less applicable to patterns everywhere. 

As to the windows then ; I fear we must grumble 
again. In most decent houses, or what are so called, 
the windows are much too big, and let in a flood 
of light in a haphazard and ill-considered way, 
which the indwellers are forced to obscure again 
by shutters, blinds, curtains, screens, heavy up- 
holsteries, and such other nuisances. The win- 

Making the Best of it. 131 

dows, also, are almost always brought too low 
down, and often so low down as to have their 
sills on a level with our ankles, sending thereby 
a raking light across the room that destroys all 
pleasantness of tone. The windows, moreover, are 
either big rectangular holes in the wall, or, which 
is worse, have ill-proportioned round or segmental 
heads, while the common custom in *good' houses 
is either to fill these openings with one huge sheet 
of plate-glass, or to divide them across the middle 
with a thin bar. If we insist on glazing them thus, 
we may make up our minds that we have done the 
worst we can for our windows, nor can a room look 
tolerable where it is so treated. You may see how 
people feel this by their admiration of the tracery 
of a Gothic window, or the lattice-work of a Cairo 
house. Our makeshift substitute for those beau- 
ties must be the filling of the window with mod- 
erate-sized panes of glass (plate-glass if you will) 
set in solid sash-bars ; we shall then at all events 
feel as if we were indoors on a cold day — as if we 
had a roof over our heads. 

As to the floor: a little time ago it was the 
universal custom for those who could afford it to 
cover it all up into its dustiest and crookedest 
corners with a carpet, good bad or indifferent. 
Now I daresay you have heard from others, whose 
subject is the health of houses rather than their art 
(if indeed the two subjects can be considered apart, 
as they cannot really be), you have heard from 

132 Making the Best of it. 

teachers like Dr. Richardson what a nasty and 
unwholesome custom this is, so I will only say that 
it looks nasty and unwholesome. Happily, how- 
ever, it is now a custom so much broken into that 
we may consider it doomed ; for in all houses that 
pretend to any taste of arrangement, the carpet is 
now a rug, large it may be, but at any rate not 
looking immovable, and not being a trap for dust 
in the corners. Still I would go further than this 
even, and get rich people no longer to look upon a 
carpet as a necessity for a room at all, at least in 
the summer. This would have two advantages : 
1st. It would compel us to have better floors (and 
less drafty), our present ones being one of the chief 
disgraces to modern building ; and 2ndly, since we 
should have less carpet to provide, what we did 
have we could afford to have better. We could 
have a few real works of art at the same price for 
which we now have hundreds of yards of makeshift 
machine-woven goods. In any case it is a great 
comfort to see the actual floor ; and the said floor 
may be, as you know, made very ornamental by 
either wood mosaic, or tile and marble mosaic ; the 
latter especially is such an easy art as far as mere 
technicality goes, and so full of resources, that I 
think it is a great pity it is not used more. The 
contrast between its gray tones and the rich posi- 
tive color of Eastern carpet-work is so beautiful, 
that the two together make satisfactory decoration 
for a room with little addition. 

Making the Best of it. 133 

When wood mosaic or parquet-work is used, 
owing to the necessary simplicity of the forms, I 
think it best not to vary the color of the wood. 
The variation caused by the diverse lie of the grain 
and so forth, is enough. Most decorators will be 
willing, I believe, to accept it as an axiom, that 
when a pattern is made up of very simple geo- 
metrical forms, strong contrast of color is to be 

So much for the floor. As for its fellow, the 
ceiling, that is, I must confess, a sore point with 
me in my attempts at making the best of it. The 
simplest and most natural way of decorating a 
ceiling is to show the under side of the joists and 
beams duly moulded, and, if you will, painted in 
patterns. How far this is from being possible in 
our modern makeshift houses, I suppose I need not 
say. Then there is a natural and beautiful way of 
ornamenting a ceiling by working the plaster into 
delicate patterns, such as you see in our Elizabethan 
and Jacobean houses ; which often enough, richly 
designed and skilfully wrought as they are, are by 
no means pedantically smooth in finish — nay, may 
sometimes be called rough as to workmanship. But, 
unhappily there are few of the lesser arts that have 
fallen so low as the plasterers'. The cast work one 
sees perpetually in pretentious rooms is a mere 
ghastly caricature of ornament, which no one is 
expected to look at if he can help it. It is simply 
meant to say, * This house is built for a rich man.' 

1 34 Making the Best of it. 

The very material of it is all wrong, as, indeed, 
mostly happens with an art that has fallen sick 
That richly designed, freely wrought plastering of 
our old houses was done with a slowly drying tough 
plaster, that encouraged the hand like modeller's 
clay, and could not have been done at all with the 
brittle plaster used in ceilings now-a-days, whose 
excellence is supposed to consist in its smoothness 
only. To be good, according to our present false 
standard, it must shine like a sheet of hot-pressed 
paper, so that, for the present, and without the ex- 
penditure of abundant time and trouble, this kind 
of ceiling decoration is not to be hoped for. 

It may be suggested that we should paper our 
ceilings like our walls, but I can't think that it will 
do. Theoretically, a paper-hanging is so much dis- 
temper color applied to a surface by being printed 
on paper instead of being painted on plaster by the 
hand ; but practically, we never forget that it is 
paper, and a room papered all over would be like a 
box to live in. Besides, the covering a room all over 
with cheap recurring patterns in an uninteresting 
material, is but a poor way out of our difficulty, and 
one which we should soon tire of. 

There remains, then, nothing but to paint our 
ceilings cautiously and with as much refinement as 
we can, when we can afford it : though even that 
simple matter is complicated by the hideousness of 
the aforesaid plaster ornaments and cornices, which 
are so very bad that you must ignore them by 

Making the Best of it. 135 

leaving them unpainted, though even this neglect, 
while you paint the flat of the ceihng, makes them 
in a way part of the decoration, and so is apt to 
beat you out of every scheme of color conceivable. 
Still, I see nothing for it but cautious painting, or 
leaving the blank white space alone, to be forgotten 
if possible. This painting, of course, assumes that 
you know better than to use gas in your rooms, 
which will indeed soon reduce all your decorations 
to a pretty general average. 

So now we come to the walls of our room, the 
part which chiefly concerns us, since no one will 
admit the possibility of leaving them quite alone. 
And the first question is, how shall we space them 
out horizontally ? 

If the room be small and not high, or the wall 
be much broken by pictures and tall pieces of fur- 
niture, I would not divide it horizontally. One 
pattern of paper, or whatever it may be, or one tint 
rnay serve us, unless we have in hand an elaborate 
and architectural scheme of decoration, as in a 
makeshift house is not like to be the case ; but if 
it be a good-sized room, and the wall be not much 
broken up, some horizontal division is good, even 
if the room be not very high. 

How are we to divide it then ? I need scarcely 
say not into two equal parts ; no one out of the 
island of Laputa could do that. For the rest, un- 
less again we have a very elaborate scheme of 
decoration, I think dividing it once, making it into 

136 Making the Best of it. 

two spaces, is enough. Now there are practically 
two ways of doing that : you may either have a 
narrow frieze below the cornice, and hang the wall 
thence to the floor, or you may have a moderate 
dado, say 4 feet 6 inches high, and hang the wall 
from the cornice to the top of the dado. Either 
way is good, according to circumstances ; the first 
with the tall hanging and the narrow frieze is fittest 
if your wall is to be covered with stuffs, tapestry, 
or panelling, in which case making the frieze a 
piece of delicate painting is desirable in default of 
such plaster-work as I have spoken of above ; or 
even if the proportions of the room very much cry 
out for it, you may, in default of hand-painting, use 
a strip of printed paper, though this, I must say, is 
a makeshift of makeshifts. The division into dado, 
and wall hung from thence to the cornice, is fittest 
for a wall which is to be covered with painted 
decoration, or its makeshift, paper-hangings. 

As to these, I would earnestly dissuade you from 
using more than one pattern in one room, unless 
one of them be but a breaking of the surface with a 
pattern so insignificant as scarce to be noticeable. 
I have seen a good deal of the practice of putting 
pattern over pattern in paper-hangings, and it seems 
to me a very unsatisfactory one, and I am, in short, 
convinced, as I hinted just now, that cheap re- 
curring patterns in a material which has no play of 
light in it, and no special beauty of its own, should 
be employed rather sparingly, or they destroy all 

Making the Best of it. 137 

refinement of decoration and blunt our enjoyment 
of whatever beauty may lie in the designs of such 

Before I leave this subject of the spacing out of 
the wall for decoration, I should say that in dealing 
with a very high room it is best to put nothing that 
attracts the eye above the level of about eight feet 
from the floor — to let everything above that be 
mere air and space, as it were. I think you will 
find that this will tend to take off that look of 
dreariness that often besets tall rooms. 

So much, then, for the spacing out of our wall. 
We have now to consider what the covering of it 
is to be, which subject, before we have done with it, 
will take us over a great deal of ground and lead 
us into the consideration of designing for flat spaces 
in general with work other than picture work. 

To clear the way, I have a word or two to say 
about the treatment of the woodwork in our room. 
If I could I would have no woodwork in it that 
needed flat-painting, meaning by that word a mere 
paying it over with four coats of tinted lead-pigment 
ground in oils or varnish, but unless one can have a 
noble wood, such as oak, I don't see what else is to 
be done. I have never seen deal stained trans- 
parently with success, and its natural color is poor, 
and will not enter into any scheme of decoration, 
while polishing it makes it worse. In short, it is 
such a poor material that it must be hidden unless 
it be used on a big scale as mere timber. Even 

1 38 Making the Best of it. 

then, in a church-roof or what not, coloring it with 
distemper will not hurt it, and in a room I should 
certainly do this to the woodwork of roof and ceil- 
ing, while I painted such woodwork as came within 
touch of hand. As to the color of this, it should, 
as a rule, be of the same general tone as the walls, 
but a shade or two darker in tint. Very dark 
woodwork makes a room dreary and disagreeable, 
while unless the decoration be in a very bright key 
of color, it does not do to have the woodwork 
lighter than the walls. For the rest, if you are 
lucky enough to be able to use oak, and plenty of 
it, found your decoration on that, leaving it just as 
it comes from the plane. 

Now, as you are not bound to use anything for 
the decoration of your walls but simple tints, I will 
here say a few words on the main colors, before I 
go on to what is more properly decoration, only in 
speaking of them one can scarce think only of such 
tints as are fit to color a wall with, of which, to say 
truth, there are not many. 

Though we may each have our special preferences 
among the main colors, which we shall do quite 
right to indulge, it is a sign of disease in an artist 
to have a prejudice against any particular color, 
though such prejudices are common and violent 
enough among people imperfectly educated in art, 
or with naturally dull perceptions of it. Still, 
colors have their ways in decoration, so to say, 
both positively in themselves, and relatively to each 

Making the Best of it. 1 39 

man's way of using them. So I may be excused 
for setting down some things I seem to have noticed 
about those ways. 

Yellow is not a color that can be used in 
masses unless it be much broken or mingled with 
other colors, and even then it wants some material 
to help it out, which has great play of light and 
shade in it. You know people are always calling 
yellow things golden, even when they are not at all 
the color of gold, which, even unalloyed, is not a 
bright yellow. That shows that delightful yellows 
are not very positive, and that, as aforesaid, they 
need gleaming materials to help them. The light 
bright yellows, like jonquil and primrose, are 
scarcely usable in art, save in silk, whose gleam 
takes color from and adds light to the local tint, 
just as sunlight does to the yellow blossoms which 
are so common in Nature. In dead materials, such 
as distemper color, a positive yellow can only be 
used sparingly in combination with other tints. 

Red is also a difficult color to use, unless it be 
helped by some beauty of material, for whether it 
tend toward yellow and be called scarlet, or to- 
ward blue and be crimson, there is but little pleas- 
ure in it, unless it be deep and full. If the scarlet 
pass a certain degree of impurity it falls into the 
hot brown-red, very disagreeable in large masses. 
If the crimson be much reduced it tends towards a 
cold color called in these latter days magenta, im- 
possible for an artist to use either by itself or in 

140 Making the Best of it. 

combination. The finest tint of red is a central 
one between crimson and scarlet, and is a very- 
powerful color indeed, but scarce to be got in a 
flat tint. A crimson broken by grayish-brown, and 
tending towards russet, is also a very useful color, 
but, like all the finest reds, is rather a dyer's color 
than a house-painter's ; the world being very rich 
in soluble reds, which of course are not the most 
enduring of pigments, though very fast as soluble 

Pink, though one of the most beautiful colors 
in combination, is not easy to use as a fiat tint 
even over moderate spaces ; the more orangy 
shades of it are the most useful, a cold pink being 
a color much to be avoided. 

As to purple, no one in his senses would think 
of using it bright in masses. In combination it 
may be used somewhat bright, if it be warm and 
tend towards red ; but the best and most char- 
acteristic shade of purple is nowise bright, but 
tends towards russet. Egyptian porphyry, especi- 
ally when contrasted with orange, as in the pave- 
ment of St. Mark's at Venice, will represent the 
color for you. At the British Museum, and one or 
two other famous libraries, are still left specimens 
of this tint, as Byzantine art in its palmy days 
understood it. These are books written with gold 
and silver on vellum stained purple, probably with 
the now lost murex or fish-dye of the ancients, the 
tint of which dye-stuff PUny describes minutely 

Making the Best of it. 141 

and accurately in his ' Natural History/ I need 
scarcely say that no ordinary flat tint could repro- 
duce this most splendid of colors. 

Though green (at all events in England) is the 
color widest used by Nature, yet there is not so 
much bright green used by her as many people 
seem to think ; the most of it being used for a week 
or two in spring, when the leafage is small, and 
blended with the grays and other negative colors 
of the twigs ; when ' leaves grow large and long,' as 
the ballad has it, they also grow gray. I believe it 
has been noted by Mr. Ruskin, and it certainly 
seems true, that the pleasure we take in the young 
spring foliage comes largely from its tenderness of 
tone rather than its brightness of hue. Anyhow, 
you may be sure that if we try to outdo Nature's 
green tints on our walls we shall fail, and make 
ourselves uncomfortable to boot. We must, in 
short, be very careful of bright greens, and seldom, 
if ever, use them at once bright and strong. 

On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of 
a dingy bilious-looking yellow-green, a color to 
which I have special and personal hatred, because 
(if you will excuse my mentioning personal mat- 
ters) I have been supposed to have somewhat 
brought it into vogue. I assure you I am not really 
responsible for it. 

The truth is, that to get a green that is at once 
pure and neither cold nor rank, and not too bright 
to live with, is of simple things as difficult as any- 

1 42 Making the Best of it. 

thing a decorator has to do ; but it can be done, 
and without the help of special material ; and when 
done such a green is so useful, and so restful to the 
eyes, that in this matter also we are bound to follow 
Nature and make large use of that work-a-day 
color green. 

But if green be called a work-a-day color, surely 
blue must be called the holiday one, and those who 
long most for bright colors may please themselves 
most with it ; for if you duly guard against getting 
it cold if it tend towards red, or rank if it tend 
towards green, you need not be much afraid of its 
brightness. Now, as red is above all a dyer s color, 
so blue is especially a pigment and an enamel color ; 
the world is rich in insoluble blues, many of which 
are practically indestructible. 

I have said that there are not many tints fit to 
color a wall with : this is my list of them as far as 
I "know; a solid red, not very deep, but rather 
describable as a full pink, and toned both with yel- 
low and blue, a very fine color if you can hit it ; a 
light orangy pink, to be used rather sparingly. 
A pale golden tint, i.e., a yellowish brown ; a very 
difficult color to hit. A color between these two 
last, call it pale copper color. All these three you 
must be careful over, for if you get them muddy or 
dirty you are lost. 

Tints of green from pure and pale to deepish and 
gray : always remembering that the purer the paler, 
and the deeper the grayer. 

Making the Best of it. 143 

Tints of pure pale blue from a greenish one, the 
color of a starling's egg, to a gray ultramarine color, 
hard to use because so full of color, but incom- 
parable when right. In these you must carefully 
avoid the point at which the green overcomes the 
blue and turns it rank, or that at which the red 
overcomes the blue and produces those woful hues 
of pale lavender and starch blue which have not 
seldom been favorites with decorators of elegant 
drawing-rooms and respectable dining-rooms. 

You will understand that I am here speaking of 
distemper tinting, and in that material these are all 
the tints I can think of; if you use bolder, deeper, 
or stronger colors I think you will find yourself 
beaten out of monochrome in order to get your 
color harmonious. 

One last word as to distemper which is not 
monochrome, and its makeshift, paper-hanging. I 
think it always best not to force the color, but to be 
content with getting it either quite light or quite 
gray in these materials, and in no case very dark, 
trusting for richness to stuffs, or to painting which 
allows of gilding being introduced. 

I must finish these crude notes about general 
color by reminding you that you must be moderate 
with your color on the walls of an ordinary dwell- 
ing-room ; according to the material you are using 
you may go along the scale from light and bright 
to deep and rich, but some soberness of tone is 
absolutely necessary if you would not weary people 

1 44 Making the Best of it. 

till they cry out against all decoration. But I sup- 
pose this is a caution which only very young dec- 
orators are likely to need. It is the right-hand 
defection ; the left-hand falling away is to get your 
color dingy and muddy, a worse fault than the other, 
because less likely to be curable. All right-minded 
craftsmen who work in color will strive to make 
their work as bright as possible, as full of color as 
the nature of the work will allow it to be. The 
meaning they may be bound to express, the nature 
of its material, or the use it may be put to may 
limit this fulness ; but in whatever key of color 
they are working, if they do not succeed in getting 
the color pure and clear, they have not learned 
their craft, and if they do not see their fault when 
it is present in their work they are not likely to 
learn it. 

Now, hitherto we have not got further into the 
matter of decoration than to talk of its arrangement. 
Before I speak of some general matters connected 
with our subject, I must say a little on the design 
of the patterns which will form the chief part of 
your decoration. The subject is a wide and difficult 
one, and my time much too short to do it any jus- 
tice, but here and there, perhaps, a hint may crop 
up, and I may put it in a way somewhat new. 

On the whole, in speaking of these patterns I 
shall be thinking of those that necessarily recur ; 
designs which have to be carried out by more or 
less mechanical appliances, such as the printing- 
block or the loom. 

Making the Best of it. 145 

Since we have been considering color lately, we 
had better take that side first, though I know it 
will be difficult to separate the consideration of it 
from that of the other necessary qualifications of 

The first step away from monochrome is break- 
ing the ground by putting a pattern on it of the 
same color, but of a lighter or darker shade, the 
first being the best and most natural way. I need 
say but little on this as a matter of color, though 
many very important designs are so treated. One 
thing I have noticed about these damasks, as I 
should call them ; that of the three chief colors, 
red is the one where the two shades must be the 
nearest to one another, or you get the effect poor 
and weak ; while in blue you may have a great deal 
of difference without losing color, and green holds 
a middle place between the two. 

Next, if you make these two shades different in 
tint as well as, or instead of, in depth, you have 
fairly got out of monochrome, and will find plenty 
of difficulties in getting your two tints to go well 
together. The putting, for instance, of a light 
greenish blue on a deep reddish one, turquoise on 
sapphire, will try all your skill. The Persians prac- 
tise this feat, but not often without adding a third 
color, and so getting into the next stage. In fact, 
this plan of relieving the pattern by shifting its tint 
as well as its depth, is chiefly of use in dealing with 
quite low-toned colors — golden browns or grays, 

1 46 Making the Best of it. 

for instance. In dealing with the more forcible 
ones, you will find it in general necessary to add 
a third color at least, and so get into the next 

This is the relieving a pattern of more than one 
color, but all the colors light upon a dark ground. 
This is above all useful in cases where your palette 
is somewhat limited ; say, for instance, in a figured 
cloth which has to be woven mechanically, and 
where you have but three or four colors in a line, 
including the ground. 

You will not find this a difficult way of relieving 
your pattern, if you only are not too ambitious of 
getting the diverse superimposed colors too forci- 
ble on the one hand, so that they fly out from one 
another, or on the other hand too delicate, so that 
they run together into confusion. The excellence 
of this sort of work lies in a clear but soft relief of 
the form, in colors each beautiful in itself, and har- 
monious one with the other on a ground whose color 
is also beautiful, though unobtrusive. Hardness 
ruins the work, confusion of form caused by timidity 
of color annoys the eye, and makes it restless, and 
lack of color is felt as destroying the raison d'etre of 
it. So you see it taxes the designer heavily enough 
after all. Nevertheless I still call it the easiest way 
of complete pattern-designing. 

I have spoken of it as the placing of a light pat- 
tern on dark ground. I should mention that in the 
fully developed form of the design I am thinking 

Making the Best of it. 147 

of there is often an impression given, of there being 
more than one plane in the pattern. Where the 
pattern is strictly on one plane, we have not reached 
the full development of this manner of designing, 
the full development of color and form used to- 
gether, but form predominant. 

We are not left without examples of this kind 
of design at its best. The looms of Corinth, 
Palermo, and Lucca, in the twelfth, thirteenth, and 
fourteenth centuries, turned out figured silk cloths, 
which were so widely sought for, that you may see 
specimens of their work figured on fifteenth-century 
screens in East Anglian churches, or the back- 
ground of pictures by the Van Eyks, while one of 
the most important collections of the actual goods 
is preserved in the treasury of the Mary Church at 
Dantzig ; the South Kensington Museum has also 
a very fine collection of these, which I can't help 
thinking are not quite as visible to the public as 
they should be. They are, however, discoverable 
by the help of Dr. Rock's excellent catalogue pub- 
lished by the department, and I hope will, as the 
Museum gains space, be more easy to see. 

Now to sum up : This method of pattern-design- 
ing must be considered the Western and civilized 
method ; that used by craftsmen who were always 
seeing pictures, and whose minds were full of defi- 
nite ideas of form. Color was essential to their 
work, and they loved it, and understood it, but 
always subordinated it to form. 

1 48 Making the Best of it. 

There is next the method of relief by placing 
a dark figure on a light ground. Sometimes this 
method is but the converse of the last, and is not 
so useful, because it is capable of less variety and 
play of color and tone. Sometimes it must be 
looked on as a transition from the' last-mentioned 
method to the next of color laid by color. Thus 
used there is something incomplete about it. One 
finds oneself longing for more colors than one's 
shuttles or blocks allow one. There is a need felt 
for the specialty of the next method, where the 
dividing line is used, and it gradually gets drawn 
into that method. Which, indeed, is the last I 
have to speak to you of, and in which color is laid 
by color. 

In this method it is necessary that the diverse 
colors should be separated each by a line of another 
color, and that not merely to mark the form, but 
to complete the color itself; which outlining, while 
it serves the purpose of gradation, which in more 
naturalistic work is got by shading, makes the 
design quite flat, and takes from it any idea of there 
being more than one plane in it. 

This way of treating pattern design is so much 
more difficult than the others, as to be almost an 
art by itself, and to demand a study apart. As the 
method of relief by laying light upon dark may be 
called the Western way of treatment and the civil- 
ized, so this is the Eastern, and, to a certain extent, 
the uncivilized. 

Making the Best of it. 149 

But it has a wide range, from works where the 
form is of little importance and only exists to make 
boundaries for color, to those in which the form 
is so studied, so elaborate, and so lovely, that it is 
hardly true to say that the form is subordinate to 
the color ; while' on the other hand, so much delight 
is taken in the color, it is so inventive and so 
unerringly harmonious, that it is scarcely possible 
to think of the form without it — the two inter- 

Such things as these, which, as far as I know, 
are only found in Persian art at its best, do carry 
the art of mere pattern-designing to its utmost 
perfection, and it seems somewhat hard to call 
such an art uncivilized. But, you see, its whole 
soul was given up to producing matters of sub- 
sidiary art, as people call it ; its carpets were of 
more importance than its pictures ; nay, properly 
speaking, they were its pictures. And it may be 
that such an art never has a future of change be- 
fore it, save the change of death, which has now 
certainly come over that Eastern art ; while the 
more impatient, more aspiring, less sensuous art 
which belongs to Western civilization may bear 
many a change and not die utterly ; nay, may feed 
on its intellect alone for a season, and enduring 
the martyrdom of a grim time of ugliness, may 
live on, rebuking at once the narrow-minded 
pedant of science, and the luxurious tyrant of plu- 
tocracy, till change bring back the spring again, 

1 50 MakzTfg the Best of it. 

and it blossoms once more into pleasure. May it 
be so. 

Meanwhile, we may say for certain that color 
for color's sake only will never take real hold on 
the art of our civilization, not even in its subsidiary 
art. Imitation and affectation may deceive people 
into thinking that such an instinct is quickening 
amongst us, but the deception will not last. To 
have a meaning and to make others feel and under- 
stand it, must ever be the aim and end of our 
Western art. 

Before I leave this subject of the coloring of 
patterns, I must warn you against the abuse of the 
dotting, hatching, and lining of backgrounds, and 
other mechanical contrivances for breaking them ; 
such practices are too often the resource to which 
want of invention is driven, and unless used with 
great caution they vulgarize a pattern completely. 
Compare, for instance, those Sicilian and other silk 
cloths I have mentioned with the brocades (com- 
mon everywhere), turned out from the looms of 
Lyons, Venice, and Genoa, at the end of the seven- 
teenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries. 
The first perfectly simple in manufacture, trusting 
wholly to beauty of design, and the play of light on 
the naturally woven surface, while the latter eke 
out their gaudy feebleness with spots and ribs and 
long floats, and all kinds of meaningless tormenting 
of the web, till there is nothing to be learned from 
them save a warning. 

Making the Best of it. 151 

So much for the color of pattern-designing 
Now, for a space, let us consider some other things 
that are necessary to it, and which I am driven to 
call its moral qualities, and which are finally re- 
ducible to two — order and meaning. 

Without order your work cannot even exist ; 
without meaning, it were better not to exist. 

Now order imposes on us certain limitations, 
which partly spring from the nature of the art itself, 
and partly from the materials in which we have to 
work ; and it is a sign of mere incompetence in 
either a school or an individual to refuse to accept 
such limitations, or even not to accept them joyfully 
and turn them to special account, much as if a poet 
should complain of having to write in measure and 

Now, in our craft the chief of the limitations 
that spring from the essence of the art is that the 
decorator's art cannot be imitative even to the 
limited extent that the picture-painter's art is. 

This you have been told hundreds of times, and 
in theory it is accepted everywhere, so I need not 
say much about it — chiefly this, that it does not 
excuse want of observation of nature, or laziness of 
drawing, as some people seem to think. On the 
contrary, unless you know plenty about the natural 
form that you are conventionalizing, you will not 
only find it impossible to give people a satisfactory 
impression of what is in your own mind about it, 
but you will also be so hampered by your ignorance, 

152 Making the Best of it, 

that you will not be able to make your conven- 
tionalized form ornamental. It will not fill a space 
properly, or look crisp and sharp, or fulfil any pur- 
pose you may strive to put it to. 

It follows from this that your convention must 
be your own, and not borrowed from other times 
and peoples ; or, at the least, that you must make 
it your own by thoroughly understanding both the 
nature and the art you are dealing with. If you do 
not heed this, I do not know but what you may not 
as well turn to and draw laborious portraits of 
natural forms of flower and bird and beast, and 
stick them on your walls anyhow. It is true you 
will not get ornament so, but you may learn some- 
thing for your trouble ; whereas, using an obviously 
true principle as a stalking-horse for laziness of 
purpose and lack of invention, will but injure art 
all round, and blind people to the truth of that 
very principle. 

Limitations also, both as to imitation and exu- 
berance, are imposed on us by the office our pattern 
has to fulfil. A small and often-recurring pattern 
of a subordinate kind will bear much less naturalism 
than one in a freer space and more important posi- 
tion, and the more obvious the geometrical structure 
of a pattern is, the less its parts should tend toward 
naturalism. This has been well understood from 
the earliest days of art to the very latest times 
during which pattern-designing has clung to any 
w^holesome tradition, but is pretty generally un- 
heeded at present. 

Making the Best of it. 1 5 3 

As to the limitations that arise from the ma- 
terial we may be working in, we must remember 
that all material offers certain difficulties to be 
overcome, and certain facilities to be made the 
most of. Up to a certain point you must be the 
master of your material, but you must never be so 
much the master as to turn it surly, so to say. You 
must not make it your slave, or presently you will 
be a slave also. You must master it so far as to 
make it express a meaning, and to serve your aim 
at beauty. You may go beyond that necessary 
point for your own pleasure and amusement, and 
still be in the right way ; but if you go on after 
that merely to make people stare at your dexterity 
in dealing with a difficult thing, you have forgotten 
art along with the rights of your material, and you 
will make not a work of art, but a mere toy ; you 
are no longer an artist, but a juggler. The history 
of the arts gives us abundant examples and warn- 
ings in this matter. First clear steady principle, 
then playing with the danger, and lastly falling 
into the snare, mark with the utmost distinctness 
the times of the health, the decline and the last 
sickness of art. 

Allow me to give you one example in the noble 
art of mosaic. The difficulty in it necessary to be 
overcome was the making of a pure and true 
flexible line, not over thick, with little bits of glass 
or marble nearly rectangular. Its glory lay in its 
durability, the lovely color to be got in it, the play 

154 Making the Best of it, 

of light on its faceted and gleaming surface, and 
the ctearness mingled with softness, with which 
forms were relieved on the lustrous gold which was 
so freely used in its best days. Moreover, however 
bright were the colors used, they were toned de- 
lightfully by the grayness which the innumerable 
joints between the tesserae spread over the whole 

Now the difficulty of the art was overcome in 
its earliest and best days, and no care or pains 
were spared in making the most of its special 
qualities, while for long and long no force was put 
upon the material to make it imitate the qualities 
of brush-painting, either in power of color, in 
delicacy of gradation, or intricacy of treating a 
subject ; and, moreover, easy as it would have been 
to minimize the jointing of the tesserae, no attempt 
was made at it. 

But as time went on, men began to tire of the 
solemn simplicity of the art, and began to aim at 
making it keep pace with the growing complexity 
of picture painting, and, though still beautiful, it 
lost color without gaining form. From that point 
(say about 1460), it went on from bad to worse, till 
at last men were set to work in it merely because 
it was an intractable material in which to imitate 
oil-painting, and by this time it was fallen from 
being a master art, the crowning beauty of the 
most solemn buildings, to being a mere tax on 
the craftsmen's patience, and a toy for people who 

Making the Best of it. 155 

no longer cared for art. And just such a history 
may be told of every art that deals with special 

Under this head of order should be included 
something about the structure of patterns, but time 
for dealing with such an intricate question obvi- 
ously fails me ; so I will but note that, whereas it 
has been said that a recurring pattern should be 
constructed on a geometrical basis, it is clear that 
it cannot be constructed otherwise ; only the struc- 
ture may be more or less masked, and some de- 
signers take a great deal of pains to do so, 

I cannot say that I think this always necessary. 
It may be so when the pattern is on a very small 
scale, and meant to attract but little attention. But 
it is sometimes the reverse of desirable in large 
and important patterns, and, to my mind, all noble 
patterns should at least look large. Some of the 
finest and pleasantest of these show their geomet- 
rical structure clearly enough ; and if the lines of 
them grow strongly and flow gracefully, I think 
they are decidedly helped by their structure not 
being elaborately concealed. 

At the same time in all patterns which are meant 
to fill the eye and satisfy the mind, there should be 
a certain mystery. We should not be able to read 
the whole thing at once, nor desire to do so, nor 
be impelled by that desire to go on tracing line 
after Hne to find out how the pattern is made, and 
I think that the obvious presence of a geometrical 

156 Making the Best of it. 

order, if it be, as it should be, beautiful, tends 
towards this end, and prevents our feeling restless 
over a pattern. 

That every line in a pattern should have its due 
growth, and be traceable to its beginning, this, 
which you have doubtless heard before, is un- 
doubtedly essential to the finest pattern work; 
equally so is it that no stem should be so far from 
its parent stock as to look weak or wavering. 
Mutual support and unceasing progress distinguish 
real and natural order from its mockery, pedantic 

Every one who has practised the designing of 
patterns knows the necessity for covering the 
ground equably and richly. This is really to a 
great extent the secret of obtaining the look of 
satisfying mystery aforesaid, and it is the very test 
of capacity in a designer. 

Finally, no amount of delicacy is too great in 
drawing the curves of a pattern, no amount of care 
in getting the leading lines right from the first, can 
be thrown away, for beauty of detail cannot after- 
wards cure any shortcoming in this. Remember 
that a pattern is either right or wrong. It cannot 
be forgiven for blundering, as a picture may be 
which has otherwise great qualities in it. It is 
with a pattern as with a fortress, it is no stronger 
than its weakest point. A failure for ever recur- 
ring torments the eye too much to allow the mind 
to take any pleasure in suggestion and intention. 

Making the Best of it. 1 5 7 

As to the second moral quality of design, mean- 
ing, I include in that the invention and imagination 
which forms the soul of this art, as of all others, 
and which, when submitted to the bonds of order, 
has a body and a visible existence. 

Now you may well think that there is less to be 
said of this than the other quality ; for form may 
be taught, but the spirit that breathes through it 
cannot be. So I will content myself with saying 
this on these qualities, that though a designer may 
put all manner of strangeness and surprise into 
his patterns, he must not do so at the expense of 
beauty. You will never find a case in this kind 
of work where ugliness and violence are not the 
result of barrenness, and not of fertihty of inven- 
tion. The fertile man, he of resource, has not to 
worry himself about invention. He need but think 
of beauty and simplicity of expression ; his work 
will grow on and on, one thing leading to another, 
as it fares with a beautiful tree. Whereas the 
laborious paste and scissors man goes hunting up 
and down for oddities, sticks one in here and 
another there, and tries to connect them with 
commonplace ; and when it is all done, the oddities 
are not more inventive than the commonplace, 
nor the commonplace more graceful than the 

No pattern should be without some sort of 
meaning. True it is that that meaning may have 
come down to us traditionally, and not be our own 



158 Making the Best of it. 

invention, yet we must at heart understand it, or 
we can neither receive it, nor hand it down to our 
successors. It is no longer tradition if it is ser- 
vilely copied, without change, the token of life. 
You may be sure that the softest and loveliest of 
patterns will weary the steadiest admirers of their 
school as soon as they see that there is no hope of 
growth in them. For you know all art is compact 
of effort, of failure, and of hope, and we cannot but 
think that somewhere perfection lies ahead, as we 
look anxiously for the better thing that is to come 
from the good. 

Furthermore, you must not only mean something 
in your patterns, but must also be able to make 
others understand that meaning. They say that 
the difference between a genius and a madman is 
that the genius can get one or two people to believe 
in him, whereas the madman, poor fellow, has him- 
self only for his audience. Now the only way in 
our craft of design for compelling people to under- 
stand you is to follow hard on Nature ; for what 
else can you refer people to, or what else is there 
which everybody can understand.^-— everybody that 
it is worth addressing yourself to, which includes 
all people who can feel and think. 

Now let us end the talk about those qualities of 
invention and imagination with a word of memory 
and of thanks to the designers of time past Surely 
he who runs may read them abundantly set forth 
in those lesser arts they practised. Surely it had 

Making the Best of it. 159 

been pity indeed, if so much of this had been lost 
as would have been if it had been crushed out by 
the pride of intellect, that will not stoop to look at 
beauty, unless its own kings and great men have 
had a hand in it. Belike the thoughts of the men 
who wrought this kind of art could not have been 
expressed in grander ways or more' definitely, or, 
at least, would not have been ; therefore I believe 
I am not thinking only of my own pleasure, but 
of the pleasure of many people, when I praise the 
usefulness of the lives of these men, whose names 
are long forgotten, but whose works we still wonder 
at. In their own way they meant to tell us how 
the flowers grew in the gardens of Damascus, or 
how the hunt was up on the plains of Kirman, or 
how the tulips shone among the grass in the Mid- 
Persian valley, and how their souls delighted in it 
all, and what joy they had in life ; nor did they fail 
to make their meaning clear to some of us. 

But, indeed, they and other matters have led us 
afar from our makeshift house, and the room we 
have to decorate therein. And there is still left 
the fireplace to consider. 

Now I think there is nothing about a house in 
which a contrast is greater between old and new 
than this piece of architecture. The old, either 
delightful in its comfortable simplicity, or deco- 
rated with the noblest and most meaning art in 
the place ; the modern, mean, miserable, uncom- 
fortable, and showy, plastered about with wretched 

1 60 Making the Best of it. 

sham ornament, trumpery of cast-iron, and brass 
and polished steel, and what not — offensive to 
look at, and a nuisance to clean — and the whole 
thing huddled up with rubbish of ash-pan, and 
fender, and rug, till surely the hearths which we 
have been bidden so often to defend (whether 
there was a chance of their being attacked or not) 
have now become a mere figure of speech, the 
meaning of which in a short time it will be im- 
possible for learned philologists to find out. 

I do most seriously advise you to get rid of all 
this, or as much of it as you can without absolute 
ruin to your prospects in life ; and even if you do 
not know how to decorate it, at least have a hole in 
the wall of a convenient shape, faced with such 
bricks or tiles as will at once bear fire and clean ; 
then some sort of iron basket in it, and out from 
that a real hearth of cleanable brick or tile, which 
will not make you blush when you look at it, and 
as little in the way of guard and fender as you think 
will be safe ; that will do to begin with. For the 
rest, if you have wooden work about the fireplace, 
which is often good to have, don't mix up the wood 
and the tiles together ; let the wood-work look like 
part of the wall-covering, and the tiles like part of 
the chimney. 

As for movable furniture, even if time did not 
fail us, 't is a large subject — or a very small one — 
so I will but say, don't have too much of it ; have 
none for mere finery's sake, or to satisfy the claims 

Making the Best of it. 1 6 1 

of custom — these are flat truisms, are they not ? 
But really it seems as if some people had never 
thought of them, for 't is almost the universal 
custom to stuff up some rooms so that you can 
scarcely move in them, and to leave others deadly 
bare ; whereas all rooms ought to look as if they 
were lived in, and to have, so to say, a friendly wel- 
come ready for the incomer. 

A dining-room ought not to look as if one went 
into it as one does into a dentist's parlor — for an 
operation, and came out of it when the operation 
was over — the tooth out, or the dinner in. A draw- 
ing-room ought to look as if some kind of work could 
be done in it less toilsome than being bored. A 
library certainly ought to have books in it, not 
boots only, as in Thackeray's country snob's house, 
but so ought each and every room in the house 
more or less ; also, though all rooms should look 
tidy, and even very tidy, they ought not to look 
too tidy. 

Furthermore, no room of the richest man should 
look grand enough to make a simple man shrink in 
it, or luxurious enough to make a thoughtful man 
feel ashamed in it ; it will not do so if art be at 
home there, for she has no foes so deadly as 
insolence and waste. Indeed, I fear that at pres- 
ent the decoration of rich men's houses is mostly 
wrought out at the bidding of grandeur and luxury, 
and that art has been mostly cowed or shamed out 
of them ; nor when I come to think of it will I 


1 6 2 Making the Best of it. 

lament it overmuch. Art was not born in the 
palace ; rather she fell sick there, and it will 
take more bracing air than that of rich men's 
houses to heal her again. If she is ever to be 
strong enough to help mankind once more, she 
must gather strength in simple places ; the refuge 
from wind and weather to which the goodman 
comes home from field or hill-side ; the well-tidied 
space into which the craftsman draws from the 
litter of loom, and smithy, and bench ; the scholar's 
island in the sea of books ; the artist's clearing in 
the canvas-grove ; it is from these places that Art 
must come if she is ever again to be enthroned in 
that other kind of building, which I think, under 
some name or other, whether you call it church or 
hall of reason, or what not, will always be needed ; 
the building in which people meet to forget their 
own transient personal and family troubles in aspi- 
rations for their fellows and the days to come, and 
which to a certain extent make up to town-dwellers 
for their loss of field, and river, and mountain. 

Well, it seems to me that these two kinds of 
buildings are all we have really to think of, to- 
gether with whatsoever outhouses, workshops, and 
the like may be necessary. Surely the rest may 
quietly drop to pieces for aught we care. Unless 
it should be thought good in the interest of history 
to keep one standing in each big town to show 
posterity what strange, ugly, uncomfortable houses 
rich men dwelt in once upon a time. 

Making the Best of it. 163 

Meantime now, when rich men won't have art, 
and poor men can't, there is, nevertheless, some 
unthinking craving for it, some restless feeling in 
men's minds of something lacking somewhere, 
which has made many benevolent people seek for 
the possibility of cheap art. 

What do they mean by that ? One art for the 
rich and another for the poor ? No, it won't do. 
Art is not so accommodating as the justice or 
religion of society, and she won't have it. 

What then 1 There has been cheap art at some 
times certainly, at the expense of the starvation of 
the craftsmen. But people can't mean that ; and if 
they did would, happily, no longer have the same 
chance of getting it that they once had. Still they 
think art can be got round some way or other — 
jockeyed, so to say. I rather think in this fashion : 
that a highly gifted and carefully educated man 
shall, like Mr. Pecksniff, squint at a sheet of paper, 
and that the results of that squint shall set a vast 
number of well-fed, contented operatives (they are 
ashamed to call them workmen) turning crank 
handles for ten hours a-day, bidding them keep 
what gifts and education they may have been born 
with for their — I was going to say leisure hours, 
but I don't know how to, for if I were to work ten 
hours a-day at work I despised and hated, I should 
spend my leisure I hope in political agitation, but 
I fear — in drinking. So let us say that the afore- 
said operatives will have to keep their inborn gifts 

1 64 Making the Best of it. 

and education for their dreams. Well, from this 
system are to come threefold blessings — food and 
clothing, poorish lodging and a little leisure to the 
operatives, enormous riches to the capitalists that 
rent them, together with moderate riches to the 
squinter on the paper; and lastly, very decidedly 
lastly, abundance of cheap art for the operatives or 
crank turners to buy — in their dreams. 

Well, there have been many other benevolent 
and economical schemes for keeping your cake 
after you have eaten it, for skinning a flint, and boil- 
ing a flea down for its tallow and glue, and this one 
of cheap art may just go its way with the others. 

Yet to my mind real art is cheap, even at the 
price that must be paid for it. That price is, in 
short, the providing of a handicraftsman who shall 
put his own individual intelligence and enthusiasm 
into the goods he fashions. So far from his labor 
being ' divided,' which is the technical phrase for 
his always doing one minute piece of work, and 
never being allowed to think of any other ; so far 
from that, he must know all about the ware he is 
making and its relation to similar wares ; he must 
have a natural aptitude for his work so strong, that 
no education can force him away from his special 
bent. He must be allowed to think of what he is 
.doing, and to vary his work as the circumstances 
of it vary, and his own moods. He must be for 
ever striving to make the piece he is at work at 
better than the last. He must refuse at anybody's 

Making the Best of it, 165 

bidding to turn out, I won't say a bad, but even an 
indifferent piece of work, whatever the pubHc want, 
or think they want. He must have a voice, and a 
voice worth Hstening to, in the whole affair. 

Such a man I should call, not an operative, but 
a workman. You may call him an artist if you 
will, for I have been describing the qualities of 
artists, as I know them ; but a capitalist will be 
apt to call him a ' troublesome fellow,' a radical of 
radicals, and, in fact, he will be troublesome — 
mere grit and friction in the wheels of the money- 
grinding machine. 

Yes, such a man will stop the machine perhaps ; 
but it is only through him that you can have art, 
i, e. civilization unmaimed, if you really want it ; so 
consider, if you do want it, and will pay the price, 
and give the workman his due. 

What is his due } that is, what can he take 
from you, and be the man that you want } Money 
enough to keep him from fear of want or degrada- 
tion for him and his ; leisure enough from bread- 
earning work (even though it be pleasant to him) 
to give him time to read and think, and connect 
his own life with the life of the great world ; work 
enough of the kind aforesaid, and praise of it, and 
encouragement enough to make him feel good 
friends with his fellows ; and lastly (not least, for 
't is verily part of the bargain), his own due share 
of art, the chief part of which will be a dwelling 
that does not lack the beauty which Nature would 

1 66 Making the Best of it> 

freely allow it, if our own perversity did not turn 
nature out of doors. 

That is the bargain to be struck, such work and 
such wages ; and I believe that if the world wants 
the work and is willing to pay the wages, the work- 
men will not long be wanting. 

On the other hand, if it be certain that the world 
— that is, modern civilized society — will never- 
more ask for such workmen, then I am as sure as 
that I stand here breathing, that art is dying: that 
the spark still smouldering is not to be quickened 
into life, but damped into death. And indeed, 
often, in my fear of that, I think 'would that I 
could see what is to take the place of art ! ' For, 
whether modern civilized society can make that 
bargain aforesaid, who shall say ? I know well — 
who could fail to know it 1 — that the difficulties 
are great. 

Too apt has the world ever been, * for the sake 
of life to cast away the reasons for living,' and per- 
haps is more and more apt to it as the conditions 
of life get more intricate, as the race to avoid ruin, 
which seems always imminent and overwhelming, 
gets swifter and more terrible. Yet how would it 
be if we were to lay aside fear and turn in the face 
of all that, and stand by our claim to have, one and 
all of us, reasons for living ? Mayhap the heavens 
would not fall on us if we did. 

Anyhow, let us make up our minds which we 
want, art, or the absence of art, and be prepared 

Making the Best of it. 167 

if we want art, to give up many things, and in 
many ways to change the conditions of life. Per- 
haps there are those who will understand me when 
I say that that necessary change may make life 
poorer for the rich, rougher for the refined, and, it 
may be, duller for the gifted — for a while; that 
it may even take such forms that not the best or 
wisest of us shall always be able to know it for a 
friend, but may at whiles fight against it as a foe. 
Yet, when the day comes that gives us visible 
token of art rising like the sun from below — when 
it is no longer a justly despised whim of the rich, 
or a lazy habit of the so-called educated, but a 
thing that labor begins to crave as a necessity, even 
as labor is a necessity for all men — in that day 
how shall all trouble be forgotten, all folly forgiven 
— even our own ! 

Little by little it must come, I know. Patience 
and prudence must not be lacking to us, but cour- 
age still less. Let us be a Gideon's band. * Who- 
soever is fearful and afraid, let him return, and 
depart early from Mount Gilead.' And among that 
band let there be no delusions ; let the last en- 
couraging lie have been told, the last after-dinner 
humbug spoken, for surely though the days seem 
dark, we may remember that men longed for free- 
dom while yet they were slaves ; that it was in 
times when swords were reddened every day that 
men began to think of peace and order, and to 
strive to win them. 

1 68 Making the Best of it. 

We who think, and can enjoy the feast that 
Nature has spread for us, is it not both our right 
and our duty to rebel against that slavery of the 
waste of life's joys, which people thoughtless and 
joyless, by no fault of their own, have wrapped the 
world in ? From our own selves we can tell that 
there is hope of victory in our rebellion, since we 
have art enough in our lives, not to content us, 
but to make us long for more, and that longing 
drives us into trying to spread art and the longing 
for art ; and as it is with us so it will be with those 
that we win over : little by little, we may well 
hope, will do its work, till at last a great many 
men will have enough of art to see how little they 
have, and how much they might better their lives, 
if every man had his due share of art — that is, 
just so much as he could use if a fair chance were 
given him. 

Is that, indeed, too extravagant a hope ? Have 
you not heard how it has gone with many a cause 
before now ? First, few men heed it ; next, most 
men contemn it ; lastly, all men accept it — and 
the cause is won. 


* the horrible doctrine that this universe is a Cockney 

Nightmare — which no creature ought for a moment to believe or 
listen to/ — Thomas Carlyle. 

The word Architecture has, I suppose, to most of 
you the meaning of the art of building nobly and 
ornamentally. Now, I believe the practice of this 
art to be one of the most important things which 
man can turn his hand to, and the consideration of 
it to be worth the attention of serious people, not 
for an hour only, but for a good part of their lives, 
even though they may not have to do with it 

But, noble as that art is by itself, and though it 
is specially the art of civilization, it neither ever 
has existed nor ever can exist alive and progressive 
by itself, but must cherish and be cherished by all 
the crafts whereby men make the things which they 
intend shall be beautiful, and shall last somewhat 
beyond the passing day. 

It is this union of the arts, mutually helpful and 
harmoniously subordinated one to another, which 
I have learned to think of as Architecture, and 

1 70 The Prospects of 

when I use the word to-night, that is what I shall 
mean by it, and nothing narrower. 

A great subject truly, for it embraces the con- 
sideration of the whole external surroundings of 
the life of man ; we cannot escape from it if we 
would so long as we are part of civilization, for it 
means the moulding and altering to human needs 
of the very face of the earth itself, except in the 
outermost desert. 

Neither can we hand over our interests in it to 
a little band of learned men, and bid them seek 
and discover, and fashion, that we may at last 
stand by and wonder at the work, and learn a little 
of how 'twas all done : 'tis we ourselves, each one 
of us, who must keep watch and ward over the 
fairness of the earth, and each with his own soul 
and hand do his due share therein, lest we deliver 
to our sons a lesser treasure than our fathers left 
to us. 

Nor, again, is there time enough and to spare 
that we may leave this matter alone till our latter 
days or let our sons deal with it : for so busy and 
eager is mankind, that the desire of to-day makes 
us utterly forget the desire of yesterday and the 
gain it brought ; and whensoever in any object of 
pursuit we cease to long for perfection, corruption 
sure and speedy leads from life to death, and all is 
soon over and forgotten : time enough there may 
be for many things : for peopling the desert ; for 
breaking down the walls between nation and 

Architecture in Civilization. 171 

nation ; for learning the innermost secrets of the 
fashion of our souls and bodies, the air we breathe, 
and the earth we tread on : time enough for sub- 
duing all the forces of nature to our material wants : 
but no time to spare before we turn our eyes and 
our longing to the fairness of the earth ; lest the 
wave of human need sweep over it and make it 
not a hopeful desert as it once was, but a hopeless 
prison: lest man should find at last that he has 
toiled and striven, and conquered, and set all things 
on the earth under his feet, that he might live 
thereon himself unhappy. 

Most true it is that when any spot of earth's 
surface has been marred by the haste or careless- 
ness of civilization, it is heavy work to seek a 
remedy, nay a work scarce conceivable ; for the 
desire to live on any terms which nature has im- 
planted in us, and the terribly swift multiplication 
of the race which is the result of it, thrusts out of 
men's minds all thought of other hopes, and bars 
the way before us as with a wall of iron : no force 
but a force equal to that which marred can ever 
mend, or give back those ruined places to hope and 

Therefore I entreat you to turn your minds to 
thinking of what is to come of Architecture, that 
is to say, the fairness of the earth amidst the habi- 
tations of men : for the hope and the fear of it will 
follow us though we try to escape it ; it concerns 
us all, and needs the help of all ; and what we do 

172 The Prospects of 

herein must be done at once, since every day of 
our neglect adds to the heap of troubles a bhnd 
force is making for us ; till it may come to this if 
we do not look to it, that we shall one day have to 
call, not on peace and prosperity, but on violence 
and ruin to rid us of them. 

In making this appeal to you, I will not suppose 
that I am speaking to any who refuse to admit that 
we who are part of civilization are responsible to 
posterity for what may befall the fairness of the 
earth in our own days, for what we have done, in 
other words, towards the progress of Architecture ; 
if any such exist among cultivated people, I need 
not trouble myself about them ; for they would not 
listen to me, nor should I know what to say to 

On the other hand, there may be some here who 
have a knowledge of their responsibility in this mat- 
ter, but to whom the duty that it involves seems 
an easy one, since they are fairly satisfied with the 
state of Architecture as it now is : I do not sup- 
pose that they fail to note the strange contrast 
which exists between the beauty that still clings 
to some habitations of men, and the ugliness which 
is the rule in others, but it seems to them natural 
and inevitable, and therefore does not trouble them : 
and they fulfil their duties to civilization and the 
arts by sometimes going to see the beautiful places, 
and gathering together a few matters to remind 
them of these for the adornment of the ugly dwell- 

Architecture in Civilization. 173 

ings in which their homes are enshrined : for the 
rest they have no doubt that it is natural and not 
wrong that while all ancient towns, I mean towns 
whose houses are largely ancient, should be beauti- 
ful and romantic, all modern ones should be ugly 
and commonplace : it does not seem to them that 
this contrast is of any import to civilization, or that 
it expresses anything save that one town is ancient 
as to its buildings and the other modern. If their 
thoughts carry them into looking any farther into 
the contrast between ancient art and modern, they 
are not dissatisfied with the result : they may see 
things to reform here and there, but they suppose, 
or, let me say, take for granted, that art is alive 
and healthy, is on the right road, and that following 
that road, it will go on living for ever, much as it 
is now. 

It is not unfair to say that this languid compla- 
cency is the general attitude of cultivated people 
towards the arts : of course if they were ever to 
think seriously of them, they would be startled into 
discomfort by the thought that civilization as it now 
is brings inevitable ugliness with it : surely if they 
thought this, they would begin to think that this 
was not natural and right ; they would see that this 
was not what civilization aimed at in its struggling 
days : but they do not think seriously of the arts 
because they have been hitherto defended by a law 
of nature which forbids men to see evils which they 
are not ready to redress. 

1 74 The Prospects of 

Hitherto : but there are not wanting signs that 
that defence may fail them one day, and it has 
become the duty of all true artists, and all men who 
love life though it be troublous better than death 
though it be peaceful, to strive to pierce that de- 
fence and to sting the world, cultivated and uncul- 
tivated, into discontent and struggle. 

Therefore I will say that the contrast between 
past art and present, the universal beauty of men's 
habitations as they were fashioned, and the universal 
ugliness of them as they are fashioned, is of the 
utmost import to civilization, and that it expresses 
much, it expresses no less than a blind brutality 
which will destroy art at least, whatever else it may 
leave alive : art is not healthy, it even scarcely lives ; 
it is on the wrong road, and if it follow that road 
will speedily meet its death on it. 

Now perhaps you will say that by asserting that 
the general attitude of cultivated people towards 
the arts is a languid complacency with this un- 
healthy state of things, I am admitting that culti- 
vated people generally do not care about the arts, 
and that therefore this threatened death of them 
will not frighten people much, even if the threat be 
founded on truth : so that those are but beating the 
air who strive to rouse people into discontent and 

Well, I will run the risk of offending you by 
speaking plainly, and saying, that to me it seems 
over true that cultivated people in general do not 

Architecture in Civilization. 175 

care about the arts : nevertheless I will answer any 
possible challenge as to the usefulness of trying to 
rouse them to thought about the matter, by saying 
that they do not care about the arts because they 
do not know what they mean, or what they lose in 
lacking them : cultivated, that is rich, as they are, 
they also are under that harrow of hard necessity 
which is driven onward so remorselessly by the 
competitive commerce of the latter days ; a system 
which is drawing near now I hope to its perfection, 
and therefore to its death and change : the many 
millions of civilization, as labor is now organized, 
can scarce think seriously of anything but the 
means of earning their daily bread ; they do not 
know of art, it does not touch their lives at all : 
the few thousands of cultivated people, whom fate, 
not always as kind to them as she looks, has placed 
above the material necessity for this hard struggle, 
are nevertheless bound by it in spirit : the reflex of 
the grinding trouble of those who toil to live that 
they may live to toil weighs upon them also, and 
forbids them to look upon art as a matter of im- 
portance : they know it but as a toy, not as a seri- 
ous help to life : as they know it, it can no more 
lift the burden from the conscience of the rich, than 
it can from the weariness of the poor. They do 
not know what art means : as I have said, they 
think as labor is now organized art can go indefi- 
nitely as it is now organized, practised by a few 
for a few, adding a little interest, a little refinement 

176 The Prospects of 

to the lives of those who have come to look upon 
intellectual interest and spiritual refinement as 
their birthright 

No, no, it can never be : believe me if it were 
otherwise possible that it should be an enduring 
condition of humanity that there must be one class 
utterly refined and another utterly brutal, art would 
bar the way and forbid the monstrosity to exist : 
such refinement would have to do as well as it 
might without the aid of art : it may be she will 
die, but it cannot be that she will live the slave of 
the rich, and the token of the enduring slavery of 
the poor. If the life of the world is to be brutalized 
by her death, the rich must share that brutalization 
with the poor. 

I know that there are people of good-will now^ 
as there have been in all ages, who have conceived 
of art as going hand in hand with luxury, nay, as 
being much the same thing ; but it is an idea false 
from the root up, and most hurtful to art, as I could 
demonstrate to you by many examples if I had 
time, lacking which I will only meet it with one, 
which I hope will be enough. 

We are here in the richest city of the richest 
country of the richest age of the world : no luxury 
of time past can compare with our luxury ; and yet 
if you could clear your eyes from habitual blindness 
you would have to confess that there is no crime 
against art, no ugliness, no vulgarity which is not 
shared with perfect fairness and equality between 

Architecture in Civilization. 177 

the modern hovels of Bethnal Green and the mod- 
ern palaces of the West End : and then if you 
looked at the matter deeply and seriously you would 
not regret it, but rejoice at it, and as you went past 
some notable example of the aforesaid palaces you 
would exult indeed as you said, ' So that is all that 
luxury and money can do for refinement/ 

For the rest, if of late there has been any change 
for the better in the prospects of the arts ; if there 
has been a struggle both to throw off the chains of 
dead and powerless tradition, and to understand 
the thoughts and aspirations of those among whom 
those traditions w^ere once alive powerful and be- 
neficent ; if there has been abroad any spirit of 
resistance to the flood of sordid ugliness that 
modern civilization has created to make modern 
civilization miserable : in a word, if any of us have 
had the courage to be discontented that art seems 
dying, and to hope for her new birth, it is because 
others have been discontented and hopeful in other 
matters than the arts : I believe most sincerely that 
the steady progress of those whom the stupidity 
of language forces me to call the lower classes in 
material, political and social condition, has been 
our real help in all that we have been able to do or 
to hope, although both the helpers and the helped 
have been mostly unconscious of it. 

It is indeed in this belief, the belief in the benefi- 
cent progress of civilization, that I venture to face 
you and to entreat you to strive to enter into the 

178 The Prospects of 

real meaning of the arts, which are surely the ex- 
pression of reverence for nature, and the crown of 
nature, the life of man upon the earth. 

With this intent in view I may, I think, hope to 
move you, I do not say to agree to all I urge upon 
you, yet at least to think the matter worth thinking 
about ; and if you once do that, I believe I shall 
liave won you. Maybe indeed that many things 
which I think beautiful you will deem of small 
account ; nay that even some things I think base 
and ugly will not vex your eyes or your minds : but 
one thing I know you will none of you like to plead 
guilty to ; blindness to the natural beauty of the 
earth ; and of that beauty art is the only possible 

No one of you can fail to know what neglect of 
art has done to this great treasure of mankind : the 
earth which was beautiful before man lived on it, 
which for many ages grew in beauty as men grew 
in numbers and power, is now growing uglier day 
by day, and there the swiftest where civilization is 
the mightiest : this is quite certain ; no one can 
deny it : are you contented that it should be so 1 

Surely there must be few of us to whom this 
degrading change has not been brought home per- 
sonally. I think you will most of you understand 
me but too well when I ask you to remember the 
pang of dismay that comes on us when we revisit 
some spot of country which has been specially 
sympathetic to us in times past ; which has re- 

Architecture in Civilization. 179 

freshed us after toil, or soothed us after trouble ; 
but where now as we turn the corner of the road or 
crown the hill's brow we can see first the inevitable 
blue slate roof, and then the blotched mud-colored 
stucco, or ill-built wall of ill-made bricks of the new 
buildings ; then as we come nearer, and see the 
arid and pretentious little gardens, and cast-iron 
horrors of railings, and miseries of squalid out- 
houses breaking through the sweet meadows and 
abundant hedge-rows of our old quiet hamlet, do 
not our hearts sink within us, and are we not 
troubled with a perplexity not altogether selfish, 
when we think what a little bit of carelessness it 
takes to destroy a world of pleasure and delight, 
which now whatever happens can never be re- 
covered ? 

Well may we feel the perplexity and sickness 
of heart, which some day the whole world shall feel 
to find its hopes disappointed, if we do not look to 
it ; for this is not what civilization looked for : a 
new house added to the old village, where is the 
harm of that ? Should it not have been a gain and 
not a loss ; a sign of growth and prosperity which 
should have rejoiced the eye of an old friend ? a 
new family come in health and hope to share the 
modest pleasures and labors of the place we loved ; 
that should have been no grief, but a fresh pleasure 
to us. 

Yes, and time was that it would have been so : 
the new house indeed would have taken away a 

1 80 The Prospects of 

little piece of the flowery green sward, a few yards 
of the teeming hedge-row ; but a new order, a new 
beauty would have taken the place of the old : the 
very flowers of the field would have but given place 
to flowers fashioned by man's hand and mind : the 
hedge-row oak would have blossomed into fresh 
beauty in roof-tree and lintel and door-post : and 
though the new house would have looked young 
and trim beside the older houses and the ancient 
church ; ancient even in those days ; yet it would 
have a piece of history for the time to come, and 
its dear and dainty cream-white walls would have 
been a genuine link among the numberless links of 
that long chain, whose beginnings we know not of, 
but on whose mighty length even the many-pillared 
garth of Pallas, and the stately dome of the Eternal 
Wisdom, are but single links, wondrous and resplen- 
dent though they be. 

Such I say can a new house be, such it has 
been : for 't is no ideal house I am thinking of : no 
rare marvel of art, of which but few can ever be 
vouchsafed to the best times and countries : no 
palace either, not even a manor-house, but a yeo- 
man's steading at grandest, or even his shepherd's 
cottage : there they stand at this day, dozens of 
them yet, in some parts of England : such an one, 
and of the smallest, is before my eyes as I speak to 
you, standing by the roadside on one of the western 
slopes of the Cotswolds : the tops of the great trees 
near it can see a long way off the mountains of the 

Architecture in Civilization. i8i 

Welsh border, and between a great county of hill, 
and waving woodland, and meadow and plain where 
lies hidden many a famous battle-field of our stout 
forefathers : there to the right a wavering patch of 
blue is the smoke of Worcester town, but Evesham 
smoke though near, is unseen, so small it is : then 
a long line of haze just traceable shows where 
Avon wends its way thence towards Severn, till 
Bredon Hill hides the sight both of it and Tewkes- 
bury smoke: just below on either side the Broad- 
way lie the gray houses of the village street ending 
with a lovely house of the fourteenth century ; 
above the road winds serpentine up the steep hill- 
side, whose crest looking westward sees the glori- 
ous- map I have been telling of spread before it, 
but eastward strains to look on Oxfordshire, and 
thence all waters run towards Thames : all about 
lie the sunny slopes, lovely of outline, flowery and 
sweetly grassed, dotted with the best-grown and 
most graceful of trees : 't is a beautiful country side 
indeed, not undignified, not unromantic, but most 

And there stands the little house that was new 
once, a laborer's cottage built of the Cotswold lime- 
stone, and grown now, walls and roof, a lovely 
warm gray, though it was creamy white in its 
earliest day ; no line of it could ever have marred 
the Cotswold beauty; everything about it is solid 
and well wrought: it is skilfully planned and well 
proportioned : there is a little sharp and delicate 

1 82 The Prospects of 

carving about its arched doorway, and every part 
of it is well cared for : 't is in fact beautiful, a work 
of art and a piece of nature — no less : there is no 
man who could have done it better considering its 
use and its place. 

Who built it then ? No strange race of men, 
but just the mason of Broadway village : even such 
a man as is now running up down yonder three or 
four cottages of the wretched type we know too 
well : nor did he get an architect from London, or 
even Worcester, to design it : I believe 't is but two 
hundred years old, and at that time, though beauty 
still lingered among the peasants' houses, your 
learned architects were building houses for the high 
gentry that were ugly enough, though solid and 
well built ; nor are its materials far-fetched ; from 
the neighboring field came its walling stones ; and 
at the top of the hill they are quarrying now as 
good freestone as ever. 

No, there was no effort or wonder about it when 
it was built, though its beauty makes it strange 

And are you contented that we should lose all 
this ; this simple harmless beauty that was no 
hindrance or trouble to any man, and that added 
to the natural beauty of the earth instead of 
marring it t 

You cannot be contented with it ; all you can 
do is to try to forget it, and to say that such things 
are the necessary and inevitable consequences of 

Architecture in Civilization, 183 

civilization. Is it so indeed? The loss of such- 
like beauty is an undoubted evil : but civilization 
cannot mean at heart to produce evils for mankind : 
such losses therefore must be accidents of civiliza- 
tion, produced by its carelessness, not its maUce : 
and we, if we be men and not machines, must try to 
amend them : or civilization itself will be undone. 

But now let us leave the sunny slopes of the 
Cotswolds, and their little gray houses, lest we fall 
a-dreaming over past time, and let us think about 
the suburbs of London, neither dull nor unpleasant 
once, where surely we ought to have some power 
to do something : let me remind you how it fares 
with the beauty of the earth when some big house 
near our dwelling-place, which has passed through 
many vicissitudes of rich merchants dwelling, 
school, hospital, or what not, is at last to be turned 
into ready money, and is sold to A, who lets it to 
B, who is going to build houses on it which he will 
sell to C, who will let them to D and the other 
letters of the alphabet : well, the old house comes 
down ; that was to be looked for, and perhaps you 
don't much mind it ; it was never a work of art, 
was stupid and unimaginative enough, though cred- 
itably built, and without pretence ; but even while 
it is being pulled down, you hear the axe falling on 
the trees of its generous garden, which it was such 
a pleasure even to pass by, and where man and 
nature together have worked so long and patiently 
for the blessing of the neighbors : so you see the 

184 The Prospects of 

boys dragging about the streets great boughs of the 
flowering may-trees covered with blossom, and you 
know what is going to happen. Next morning 
when you get up you look towards that great plane- 
tree which has been such a friend to you so long 
through sun and rain and wind, which was a world 
in itself of incident and beauty : but now there is 
a gap and no plane-tree; next morning ^t is the 
turn of the great sweeping layers of darkness that 
the ancient cedars thrust out from them, very 
treasures of loveliness and romance ; they are gone 
too : you may have a faint hope left that the thick 
bank of lilac next your house may be spared, since 
the new-comers may like lilac ; but 't is gone in the 
afternoon, and the next day when you look in with 
a sore heart, you see that once fair great garden 
turned into a petty miserable clay-trampled yard, 
and everything is ready for the latest development 
of Victorian architecture — which in due time (two 
months) arises from the wreck. 

Do you like it ? You, I mean, who have not 
studied art and do not think you care about it ? 

Look at the houses (there are plenty to choose 
from) ! I will not say, are they beautiful, for you 
say you don't care whether they are or not : but 
just look at the wretched pennyworths of material^ 
of accommodation, of ornament doled out to you ! 
if there were one touch of generosity, of honest 
pride, of wish to please about them, I would forgive 
them in the lump. But there is none — not one. 

Architecture in Civilization, 185 

It is for this that you have sacrificed your cedars 
and planes and may-trees, which I do believe you 
really liked — are you satisfied ? 

Indeed you cannot be : all you can do is to go to 
your business, converse with your family, eat, drink, 
and sleep, and try to forget it, but whenever you 
think of it, you will admit that a loss without com- 
pensation has befallen you and your neighbors. 

Once more neglect of art has done it ; for though 
it is conceivable that the loss of your neighboring 
open space might in any case have been a loss to 
you, still the building of a new quarter of a town 
ought not to be an unmixed calamity to the neigh- 
bors : nor would it have been once : for first, the 
builder does n't now murder the trees (at any 
rate not all of them) for the trifling sum of money 
their corpses will bring him, but because it will 
take him too much trouble to fit them into the 
planning of his houses : so to begin with you 
would have saved the more part of your trees ; 
and I say your trees advisedly, for they were at 
least as much your trees, who loved them and 
would have saved them, as they w^ere the trees 
of the man who neglected and murdered them. 
And next, for any space you would have lost, and 
for any unavoidable destruction of natural growth, 
you would in the times of art have been compen- 
sated by orderly beauty, by visible signs of the 
ingenuity of man and his delight both in the works 
of nature and the works of his own hands. 

1 86 The Prospects of 

Yes indeed, if we had lived in Venice in early 
days, as islet after islet was built upon, we should 
have grudged it but little, I think, though we 
had been merchants and rich men, that the Greek 
shafted work, and the carving of the Lombards was 
drawn nearer and nearer to us and blocked us out 
a little from the sight of the blue Euganean hills 
or the Northern mountains. Nay, to come nearer 
home, much as I know I should have loved the wil- 
lowy meadows between the network of the streams 
of Thames and Cherwell ; yet I should not have 
been ill-content as Oxford crept northward from its 
early home of Oseney, and Rewley, and the Castle, 
as townsman's house, and scholar's hall, and the 
great College and the noble church hid year by 
, year more and more of the grass and flowers of 

That was the natural course of things then ; men 
could do no otherwise when they built than give 
some gift of beauty to the world : but all is turned 
inside out now, and when men build they cannot 
but take away some gift of beauty, which nature or 
their own forefathers have given to the world. 

Wonderful it is indeed, and perplexing, that the 
course of civilization towards perfection should have 
brought this about : so perplexing, that to some it 
seems as if civilization were eating her own children, 
and the arts first of all. 

* Indeed it is a new world now, when the new Cowley dog-holes 
must needs slay Magdalen Bridge ! — Nov. 1881. 

Architecture in Civilization. 187 

I will not say that ; time is big with so many a 
change : surely there must be some remedy, and 
whether there be or no, at least it is better to die . ^^^' 

seeking one, than to leave it alone and do nothing, jrj^u 

I have said, are you satisfied ? and assumed that ■'^^ ,^/ :^^ 
you are not, though to many you may seem to be ^/''^ ^/f^f 
at least helpless : yet indeed it is something or even ^ ^'-^^ 
a great deal that I can reasonably assume that you ^• 
are discontented: fifty years ago, thirty years ago, ; 
nay perhaps twenty years ago, it would have been 
useless to have asked such a question, it could only | 
have been answered in one way : we are perfectly^/ 
satisfied : whereas now we may at least hope that 
discontent will grow till some remedy will be 
sought for. 

And if sought for, should it not, in England at 
least, be as good as found already, and acted upon ? 
At first sight it seems so truly ; for I may say with- 
out fear of contradiction that we of the English 
middle-classes are the most powerful body of men 
that the world has yet seen, and that anything we 
have set our heart upon we will have : and yet when 
we come to look the matter in the face, we cannot 
fail to see that even for us with all our strength it 
will be a hard matter to bring about that birth of 
the new art : for between us and that which is to 
be, if art is not to perish utterly, there is something 
alive and devouring ; something as it were a river 
of fire that will put all that tries to swim across to 
a hard proof indeed, and scare from the plunge 

1 88 The Prospects of 

every soul that is not made fearless by desire of 
truth and insight of the happy days to come be- 

That fire is the hurry of life bred by the gradual 
perfection of competitive commerce which we, the 
English middle-classes, when we had won our politi- 
cal liberty, set ourselves to further with an energy, 
an eagerness, a single-heartedness that has no par- 
allel in history ; we would suffer none to bar the 
way to us, we called on none to help us, we thought 
of that one thing and forgot all else, and so attained 
to our desire, and fashioned a terrible thing indeed 
from the very hearts of the strongest of mankind. 

Indeed I don't suppose that the feeble discontent 
with our own creation that I have noted before can 
deal with such a force as this — not yet — not till it 
swells to very strong discontent : nevertheless as we 
were blind to its destructive power, and have not even 
yet learned all about that^ so we may well be blind 
to what it has of constructive force in it, and that 
one day may give us a chance to deal with it again 
and turn it toward accomplishing our new and wor- 
thier desire : in that day at least when we have at 
last learned what we want, let us work no less stren- 
uously and fearlessly, I will not say to quench it, 
but to force it to burn itself out, as we once did to 
quicken, and sustain it. 

Meantime if we could but get ourselves ready 
by casting off certain old prejudices and. delusjcmfr- 
in this matter of the arts, we should the sooner 

Architecture in Civilization, 189 

reach the pitch of discontent which would drive 
us into action : such a one I mean as the aforesaid 
idea that luxury fosters art, and especially the 
Architectural arts ; or its companion one, that the 
arts flourish best in a rich country, i, e, a country 
where the contrast between rich and poor is 
greatest : or this, the worst because the most 
plausible, the assertion of the hierarchy of intellect 
in the arts : an old foe with a new face indeed ; 
born out of the times that gave the death-blow to 
the political and social hierarchies, and waxing as 
they waned, it proclaimed from a new side the di- 
vinity of the few and the subjugation of the many, 
and cries out, like they did, that it is expedient, 
not that one man should die for the people, but 
that the people should die for one man. 

Now perhaps these three things, though they 
have different forms, are in fact but one thing ; 
tyranny to wit : but however that may be, they 
are to be met by one answer, and there is no 
other : if art which is now sick is to live and not 
die, it must in the future be of the people, for the 
people, and by the people ; it must understand 
all and be understood by all : equality must be 
the answer to tyranny : if that be not attained, 
art will die. 

The past art of what has grown to be civilized 
Europe from the time of the decline of the ancient 
classical peoples, was the outcome of instinct work- 
ing on an unbroken chain of tradition : it was fed 

I go The Prospects of 

not by knowledge but by hope, and though many 
a strange and wild illusion mingled with that hope, 
yet was it human and fruitful ever : many a man 
it solaced, many a slave in body it freed in soul : 
boundless pleasure it gave to those who wrought 
it and those who used it : long and long it lived, 
passing that torch of hope from hand to hand, 
while it kept but little record of its best and 
noblest ; for least of all things could it abide to 
make for itself kings and tyrants : every man's 
hand and soul it used, the lowest as the highest, 
and in its bosom at least were all men free : it did 
its work, not creating an art more perfect than 
itself, but rather other things than art, freedom of 
thought and speech, and the longing for light and 
knowledge and the coming days that should slay 
it : and so at last it died in the hour of its highest 
hope, almost before the greatest men that came of 
it had passed away from the world. It is dead 
now ; no longing will bring it back to us ; no echo 
of it is left among the peoples whom it once made 

Of the art that is to come who may prophesy ? 
But this at least seems to follow from comparing 
that past with the confusion in which we are now 
struggling and the light that glimmers through it : 
that that art will no longer be an art of instinct, of 
ignorance which is hopeful to learn and strives to 
see ; since ignorance is now no longer hopeful. In 
this and in many other ways it may differ from the 

Architecture in Civilizatiojt. 19 r 

past art, but in one thing it must needs be like it; | 
it will not be an esoteric mystery shared by a little/ 
band of superior beings ; it will be no more hierar^ 
chical than the art of past time was, but like it will 
be a gift of the people to the people, a thing which 
everybody can understand, and every one surround 
with love, it will be a part of every life, and a hin- 
drance to none. 

For this is the essence of art, and the thing that 
is eternal to it, whatever else may be passing and 

Here it is, you see, wherein the art of to-day is 
so far astray, — would that I could say wherein it 
has been astray, — it has been sick because of this 
packing and peeling with tyranny, and now with 
what of life it has it must struggle back towards 

There is the hard business for us ! to get all 
simple people to care about art, to get them to 
insist on making it part of their lives, whatever 
becomes of systems of commerce and labor held 
perfect by some of us. 

This is henceforward for a long time to come the 
real business of art : and — yes, I will say it since I 
think it, of civilization too for that matter : but how 
shall we set to work about it } How shall we give 
people without traditions of art eyes with which to 
see the works we do to move them } How shall 
we give them leisure from toil and truce with 
anxiety, so that they may have time to brood over 

192 The Prospects of 

the longing for beauty which men are born with, as 
't is said, even in London streets ? And chiefly, for 
this will breed the others swiftly and certainly, how 
shall we give them hope and pleasure in their daily 
work ? 

How shall we give them this soul of art without 
which men are worse than savages ? If they would 
but drive us to it ! But what and where are the 
forces that shall drive them to drive us ? Where 
is the lever and the standpoint ? 

Hard questions indeed ! but unless we are pre- 
pared to seek an answer for them, our art is a 
mere toy, which may amuse us for a little, but 
which will not sustain us at our need : the culti- 
vated classes, as they are called, will feel it slipping 
away from under them ; till some of them will but 
mock it as a worthless thing ; and some will stand 
by and look at it as a curious exercise of the 
intellect, useless when done, though amusing to 
watch a doing. How long will art live on those 
terms ? Yet such were even now the state of art 
were it not for that hope which I am here to set 
forth to you, the hope of an art that shall express 
the soul of the people. 

Therefore, I say, that in these days we men of 
civilization have to choose if we will cast art aside 
or not ; if we choose to do so I have no more to 
say, save that we may find something to take its 
place for the solace and joy of mankind, but I 
scarce think we shall : But if we refuse to cast art 

Architecture in Civilization. 193 

aside then must we seek an answer for those hard 
questions aforesaid, of which this is the first ? 

How shall we set about giving people without 
traditions of art eyes with which to see works of 
art ? It will doubtless take many years of striving 
and success, before we can think of answering that 
question fully : and if we strive to do our duty 
herein, long before it is answered fully there will 
be some kind of a popular art abiding among us : 
but meantime, and setting aside the answer which 
every artist must make to his own share of the 
question, there is one duty obvious to us all ; it is 
that we should set ourselves, each one of us, to 
doing our best to guard the natural beauty of the 
earth : we ought to look upon it as a crime, an 
injury to our fellows, only excusable because of 
ignorance, to mar that natural beauty, which is the 
property of all men ; and scarce less than a crime 
to look on and do nothing while others are marring 
it, if we can no longer plead this ignorance. 

Now this duty, as it is the most obvious to us, 
and the first and readiest way of giving people 
back their eyes, so happily it is the easiest to set 
about ; up to a certain point you will have all 
people of good will to the public good on your 
side : nay, small as the beginning is, something 
has actually been begun in this direction, and we 
may well say, considering how hopeless things 
looked twenty years ago that it is marvellous in 
our eyes ! Yet if we ever get out of the troubles 


1 94 The Prospects of 

that we are now wallowing in, it will seem perhaps 
more marvellous still to those that come after us 
that the dwellers in the richest city in the world 
were at one time rather proud that the members of 
a small, humble, and rather obscure, though I will 
say it, a beneficent society, should have felt it their 
duty to shut their eyes to the apparent hopeless- 
ness of attacking with their feeble means the stu- 
pendous evils they had become alive to, so that 
they might be able to make some small beginnings 
towards awakening the general public to a due 
sense of those evils. 

I say, that though I ask your earnest support 
for such associations as the Kyrle and the Com- 
mons Preservation Societies, and though I feel 
sure that they have begun at the right end, since 
neither gods nor governments will help those who 
don't themselves ; though we are bound to wait for 
nobody's help than our own in dealing with the 
devouring hideousness and squalor of our great 
towns, and especially of London, for which the 
whole country is responsible ; yet it would be idle 
not to acknowledge that the difficulties in our way 
are far too huge and wide-spreading to be grappled 
by private or semi-private efforts only. 

All we can do in this way we must look on not 
as palliatives of an unendurable state of things but 
as tokens of what we desire ; which is in short the 
giving back to our country of the natural beauty 
of the earth, which we are so ashamed of having 

Architecture in Civilization. 195 

taken away from it : and our chief duty herein will 
be to quicken this shame and the pain that comes 
from it in the hearts of our fellows : this I say is 
one of the chief duties of all those who have any 
right to the title of cultivated men : and I believe 
that if we are faithful to it, we may help to further 
a great impulse towards beauty among us, which 
will be so irresistible that it will fashion for itself 
a national machinery which will sweep away all 
difficulties between us and a decent life, though 
they may have increased a thousand-fold meantime, 
as is only too like to be the case. 

Surely that light will arise, though neither we 
nor our children's children see it, though civiliza- 
tion may have to go down into dark places enough 
meantime : surely one day making will be thought 
more honorable, more worthy the majesty of a great 
nation, than destruction. 

It is strange indeed, it is woful, it is scarcely 
comprehensible, if we come to think of it as men, 
and not as machines, that, after all the progress of 
civilization, it should be so easy for a little official 
talk, a few lines on a sheet of paper to set a terrible 
engine to work, which without any trouble on our 
part will slay us ten thousand men, and ruin who 
can say how many thousand of families ; and it lies 
light enough on the conscience of all of us ; while, 
if it is a question of striking a blow at grievous 
and crushing evils which lie at our own doors, 
evils which every thoughtful man feels and laments, 

1 96 The Prospects of 

and for which we alone are responsible, not only is 
there no national machinery for dealing with them, 
though they grow ranker and ranker every year, 
but any hint that such a thing may be possible 
is received with laughter or with terror, or with 
severe and heavy blame. The rights of property, 
the necessities of morality, the interests of religion 
— these are the sacramental words of cowardice 
that silence us ! 

Sirs, I have spoken of thoughtful men who feel 
these evils : but think of all the millions of men 
whom our civilization has bred, who are not 
thoughtful, and have had no chance of being so ; 
how can you fail then to acknowledge the duty of 
defending the fairness of the Earth ? and what is 
the use of our cultivation if it is to cultivate us 
into cowards ? Let us answer those feeble coun- 
sels of despair and say, we also have a property 
which your tyranny of squalor cheats us of ; we 
also have a morality which its baseness crushes; 
we also have a rehgion which its injustice makes 
a mock of. 

Well, whatever lesser helps there may be to our 
endeavor of giving people back the eyes we have 
robbed them of, we may pass them by at present, 
for they are chiefly of use to people who are begin- 
ning to get their eyesight again ; to people who, 
though they have no traditions of art, can study 
those mighty impulses that once led nations and 
races : it is to such that museums and art educa- 

Architecture in Civilization. 197 

tion are of service ; but it is clear they cannot get 
at the great mass of people, who will at present 
stare at them in unintelligent wonder. 

Until our streets are decent and orderly, and our 
town gardens break the bricks and mortar every 
here and there, and are open to all people ; until 
our meadows even near our towns become fair and 
sweet, and are unspoiled by patches of hideousness ; 
until we have clear sky above our heads and green 
grass beneath our feet ; until the great drama of 
the seasons can touch our workmen with other feel- 
ings than the misery of winter and the weariness 
of summer ; till all this happens our museums and 
art schools will be but amusements of the rich ; 
and they will soon cease to be of any use to them 
also, unless they make up their minds that they 
will do their best to give us back the fairness of 
the Earth. 

In what I have been saying on this last point I 
have been thinking of our own special duties as 
cultivated people, but in our endeavors towards this 
end, as in all others, cultivated people cannot stand 
alone ; nor can we do much to open people's eyes 
till they cry out to us to have them opened. Now 
I cannot doubt that the longing to attack and over- 
come the sordidness of the city life of to-day still 
dwells in the minds of workmen, as well as in ours, 
but it can scarcely be otherwise than vague and 
lacking guidance with men who have so little 
leisure, and are so hemmed in with hideousness as' 

198 The Prospects of 

they are. So this brings us to our second question : 
How shall people in general get leisure enough 
from toil and truce enough with anxiety to give 
scope to their inborn longing for beauty ? 

Now the part of this question that is not in- 
volved in the next one, How shall they get proper 
work to do? is I think in a fair way to be an- 

The mighty change which the success of com- 
petitive commerce has wrought in the world, what- 
ever it may have destroyed, has at least unwittingly 
made one thing, — from out of it has been born the 
increasing power of the working-class. The de- 
termination which this power has bred in it to raise 
their class as a class will I doubt not make way 
and prosper with our good-will or even in spite of 
it: but it seems to me that both to the working 
class and especially to ourselves it is important that 
it should have our abundant good-will, and also what 
help we may be able otherwise to give it, by our 
determination to deal fairly with workmen, even 
when that justice may seem to involve our own 
loss. The time of unreasonable and blind outcry 
against the Trades Unions is, I am happy to think, 
gone by ; and has given place to the hope of a 
time when these great Associations, well organized, 
well served, and earnestly supported, as I kiiow 
them to be, will find other work before them than 
the temporary support of their members and the 
adjustment of due wages for their crafts : when 

Architecture in Civilization. 199 

that hope begins to be realized, and they find they 
can make use of the help of us scattered units of 
the cultivated classes, I feel sure that the claims of 
art, as we and they will then understand the word, 
will by no means be disregarded by them. 

Meantime with us who are called artists, since 
most unhappily that word means at present another 
thing than artisan : with us who either practise the 
arts with our own hands, or who love them so 
wholly that we can enter into the inmost feelings 
of those who do, — with us it lies to deal with our 
last question, to stir up others to think of answer- 
ing this : How shall we give people in general hope 
and pleasure in their daily work in such a way that 
in those days to come the word art shall be rightly 
understood ? 

Of all that I have to say to you this seems to 
me the most important, — that our daily and neces- 
sary work, which we could not escape if we would, 
which we would not forego if we could, should be 1 
human, serious, and pleasurable, not machine-like, 1 
trivial, or grievous. I call this not only the very 
foundation of Architecture in all senses of the 
word, but of happiness also in all conditions of 

Let me say before I go further, that though I 
am nowise ashamed of repeating the words of men 
who have been before me in both senses, of time 
and insight I mean, I should be ashamed of letting 
you think that I forget their labors on which mine 

200 The Prospects of 

are founded. I know that the pith of what I am 
saying on this subject was set forth years ago and 
for the first time by Mr. Ruskin in that chapter of 
the Stones of Venice, which is entitled, * On the 
Nature of Gothic/ in words more clear and eloquent 
than any man else now living could use. So im- 
portant do they seem to me that to my mind they 
should have been posted up in every school of art 
throughout the country ; nay, in every association 
of English-speaking people which professes in any 
way to further the culture of mankind. But I am 
sorry to have to say it, my excuse for doing little 
more now than repeating those words is that they 
have been less heeded than most things which Mr. 
Ruskin has said : I suppose because people have 
been afraid of them, lest they should find the truth 
they express sticking so fast in their minds that it 
would either compel them to act on it, or confess 
themselves slothful and cowardly. 

Nor can I pretend to wonder at that : for if 
people were once to accept it as true, that it is 
nothing but just and fair that every man's work 
should have some hope and pleasure always present 
in it, they must try to bring the change about that 
would make it so : and all history tells of no greater 
change in man's life than that would be. 

Nevertheless, great as the change may be, 
Architecture has no prospects in civilization unless 
the change be brought about : and 't is my business 
to-day, I will not say to convince you of this, but 

Architecture in Civilization, 201 

to send some of you away uneasy lest perhaps it 
may be true; if I can manage that I shall have 
spoken to some purpose. 

Let us see however in what light cultivated 
people, men not without serious thoughts about 
life, look at this matter, lest perchance we may 
seem to be beating the air only : when I have given 
you an example of this way of thinking, I will an- 
swer it to the best of my power, in the hopes of 
making some of you uneasy discontented and revo- 

Some few months ago I read in a paper the report 
of a speech made to the assembled work-people of 
a famous firm of manufacturers (as they are called). 
The speech was a very humane and thoughtful one, 
spoken by one of the leaders of modern thought : 
the firm to whose people it was addressed was and 
is famous not only for successful commerce but also 
for the consideration and good will with which it 
treats its work-people, men and women. No won- 
der, therefore, that the speech was pleasant reading ; 
for the tone of it was that of a man speaking to his 
friends who could well understand him and from 
whom he need hide nothing ; but toward the end of 
it I came across a sentence, which set me a-thinking 
so hard, that I forgot all that had gone before. It 
was to this effect, and I think nearly in these very 
words, ' Since no man would work if it were not 
that he hoped by working to earn leisure ' : and the 
context showed that this was assumed a^ a self-evi- 
dent truth. 

202 The Prospects of 

Well, for many years I have had my mind fixed 
on what I in my turn regarded as ah axiom which 
may be worded thus ; No work which cannot be 
done without pleasure in the doing is worth doing ; 
so you may think I was much disturbed at a grave 
and learned man taking such a completely different 
view of it with such calmness of certainty. What 
a little way, I thought, has all Ruskin's fire and elo- 
quence made in driving into people so great a truth, 
a truth so fertile of consequences ! 

Then I turned the intrusive sentence over again 
in my mind : * No man would work unless he hoped 
by working to earn leisure : ' and I saw that this 
was another way of putting it : first, all the work of 
the world is done against the grain : second, what 
a man does in his ' leisure ' is not work. 

A poor bribe the hope of such leisure to supple- 
ment the other inducement to toil, which I take to 
be the fear of death by starvation : a poor bribe ; 
for the most of men like those Yorkshire weavers 
and spinners (and the more part far worse than 
they) work for such a very small share of leisure 
that one must needs say that if all their hope be 
in that, they are pretty much beguiled of their 
hope ! 

So I thought, and this next, that if it were in- 
deed true and beyond remedy, that no man would 
work unless he hoped by working to earn leisure, 
the hell of theologians was but little needed; for 
a thickly populated civilized country, where, you 

Architecture in Civilization. 203 

know, after all people must work at something, 
would serve their turn well enough. Yet again I 
knew that this theory of the general and necessary 
hatefulness of work was indeed the common one, 
and that all sorts of people held it, who without 
being monsters of insensibility grew fat and jolly 

So to explain this puzzle, I fell to thinking of the 
one life of which I knew something — my own to 
wit — and out tumbled the bottom of the theory. 

For I tried to think what would happen to me if 
I were forbidden my ordinary daily work ; and I 
knew that I should die of despair and weariness, 
unless I could straightway take to something else 
which I could make my daily work : and it was 
clear to me that I worked not in the least in the 
world for the sake of earning leisure by it, but 
partly driven by the fear of starvation or disgrace, 
and partly, and even a very great deal, because I 
love the work itself : and as for my leisure : well I 
had to confess that part of it I do indeed spend as 
a dog does — in contemplation, let us say ; and like 
it well enough : but part of it also I spend in work : 
which work gives me just as much pleasure as my 
bread earning work — neither more nor less ; and 
therefore could be no bribe or hope for my work- 
a-day hours. 

Then next I turned my thoughts to my friends : 
mere artists, and therefore, you know, lazy people 
by prescriptive right : I found that the one thing 

204 The Prospects of 

they enjoyed was their work, and that their only 
idea of happy leisure was other work, just as valu- 
able to the world as their work-a-day work : they 
only differed from me in liking the dog-like leisure 
less and the man-hke labor more than I do. 

I got no further when I turned from mere artists, 
to important men — public men : I could see no 
signs of their working merely to earn leisure : they 
all worked for the work and the deeds' sake. Do 
rich gentlemen sit up all night in the House of 
Commons for the sake of earning leisure ? if so, 
*t is a sad waste of labor. Or Mr. Gladstone ? he 
does n't seem to have succeeded in winning much 
leisure by tolerably strenuous work ; what he does 
get he might have got on much easier terms, I am 

Does it then come to this, that there are men, 
say a class of men, whose daily work, though may- 
be they cannot escape from doing it, is chiefly 
pleasure to them ; and other classes of men 
whose daily work is wholly irksome to them, 
and only endurable because they hope while they 
are about it to earn thereby a little leisure at the 
day's end ? 

If that were wholly true the contrast between 
the two kinds of lives would be greater than the 
contrast between the utmost delicacy of life and the 
utmost hardship could show, or between the utmost 
calm and the utmost trouble. The difference would 
be literally immeasurable. 

Architecture in Civilization, 205 

But I dare not, if I would, in so serious a matter 
overstate the evils I call on you to attack : it is not 
wholly true that such immeasurable difference ex- 
ists between the lives of divers classes of men, or 
the world would scarce have got through to past 
the middle of this century : misery, grudging, and 
tyranny would have destroyed us all. 

The inequality even at the worst is not really so 
great as that : any employment in which a thing 
can be done better or worse has some pleasure in 
it, for all men do more or less like doing what they 
can do well : even mechanical labor is pleasant to 
some people (to me amongst others) if it be not too 

Nevertheless though it be not wholly true that 
the daily work of some men is merely pleasant and 
of others merely grievous : yet is it over true both 
that things are not very far short of this, and also 
that if people do not open their eyes in tim.e they 
will speedily worsen 1 Some work, nay, almost all 
the work done by artisans is too mechanical ; and 
those that work at it must either abstract their 
thoughts from it altogether, in which case they are 
but machines while they are at work ; or else they 
must suffer such dreadful weariness in getting 
through it, as one can scarcely bear to think of. 
Nature, who desires that we shall at least live, but 
seldom, I suppose, allows this latter misery to hap- 
pen ; and the workmen who do purely mechanical 
work do as a rule become mere machines as far 

2o6 The Prospects of 

as their work is concerned. Now as I am quite 
sure that no art, not even the feeblest rudest or 
least intelligent, can come of such work, so also I 
am sure that such work makes the workman less 
than a man and degrades him grievously and un- 
justly, and that nothing can compensate him or us 
for such degradation : and I want you specially to 
note that this was instinctively felt in the very 
earliest days of what are called the industrial arts. 
When a man turned the wheel, or threw the shuttle, 
or hammered the iron, he was expected to make 
something more than a water-pot, a cloth, or a 
knife : he was expected to make a work of art 
also : he could scarcely altogether fail in this, he 
might attain to making a work of the greatest 
beauty : this was felt to be positively necessary to 
the peace of mind both of the maker and the user ; 
and this it is which . I have called Architecture: 
the turning of necessary articles of daily use into 
works of art. 

Certainly, when we come to think of it thus, 
there does seem to be little less than that immeasur- 
able contrast above mentioned between such work 
and mechanical work : and most assuredly do I 
believe that the crafts which fashion our familiar 
wares need this enlightenment of happiness no less 
now than they did in the days of the early Pharaohs : 
but we have forgotten this necessity, and in conse- 
quence have reduced handicraft to such degradation, 
that a learned, thoughtful and humane man can set 

Architecture in Civilization. 207 

forth as an axiom that no man will work except to 
earn leisure thereby. 

But now let us forget any conventional ways of 
looking at the labor which produces the matters 
of our daily life, which ways come partly from the 
wretched state of the arts in modern times, and 
partly I suppose from that repulsion to handicraft 
which seems to have beset some minds in all ages : 
let us forget this, and try to think how it really 
fares with the divers ways of work in handicrafts. 

I think one may divide the work with which 
Architecture is conversant into three classes : first 
there is the purely me^^^ : those who do this 

are machines only, and the less they think of what 
they are doing the better for the purpose, supposing 
they are properly drilled : the purpose of this work, 
to speak plainly, is not the making of wares of any 
kind, but what on the one hand is called employ- 
ment, on the other what is called money-making : 
that is to say, in other words, the multiplication of 
the species of the mechanical workman, and the 
increase of the riches of the man who sets him to 
work, called in our modern jargon by a strange 
perversion of language, a manufacturer : Let us call 
this kind of work Mechanical Toil. 

The second kind is more or less mechanical as 
the case may be ; but it can always be done better 
or worse : if it is to be well done, it claims attention 
from the workman, and he must leave on it signs of 
his individuality : there will be more or less of art 

2o8 The Prospects of 

in it, over which the workman has-.had at least some 
control ; and he will work on it partly to earn his 
bread in not too toilsome or disgusting a way, but 
in a way which makes even his work-hours pass 
pleasantly to him, and partly to make wares, which 
when made will be a distinct gain to the world ; 
things that will be praised and delighted in. This 
work I would call Intelligent Work. 

The third kind of work has but little if any- 
thing mechanical about it ; it is altogether indi- 
vidual ; that is to say, that what any man does by 
means of it could never have been done by any 
other man. Properly speaking, this work is all 
pleasure : true, there are pains and perplexities and 
wearinesses in it, but they are like the troubles of a 
beautiful life ; the dark places that make the bright 
ones brighter : they are the romance of the work 
and do but elevate the workman, not depress him : 
I would call this Imaginative Work, 

Now I can fancy that at first sight it may seem 
to you as if there were more difference between this 
last and Intelligent Work, than between Intelligent 
Work and Mechanical Toil : but \ is not so. The 
difference between these two is the difference 
between light and darkness, between Ormusd and 
Ahriman : whereas the difference between Intelli- 
gent work and what for want of a better word I am 
calling Imaginative work, is a matter of degree 
only ; and in times when art is abundant and noble 
there is no break in the chain from the humblest of 

Architecture in Civilization. 209 

the lower to the greatest of the higher class : from 
the poor weaver who chuckles as the bright color 
comes round again, to the great painter anxious 
and doubtful if he can give to the world the whole 
of his thought or only nine-tenths of it, they are all 
artists — that is men; while the mechanical work- 
man, who does not note the difference between 
bright and dull in his colors, but only knows therh 
by numbers, is, while he is at his work, no man, but 
a machine. Indeed when Intelligent work coexists 
with Imaginative, there is no hard and fast line 
between them ; in the very best and happiest times 
of art, there is scarce any Intelligent work which is 
not Imaginative also ; and there is but little of effort 
or doubt or sign of unexpressed desires even in the 
highest of the Imaginative work : the blessing of 
Equality elevates the lesser, and calms the greater 

Now further. Mechanical Toil is bred of that 
hurry and thoughtlessness of civilization of which, 
as aforesaid, the middle-classes of this country 
have been such powerful furtherers : on the face of 
it it is hostile to civilization, a curse that civiliza- 
tion has made for itself and can no longer think 
of abolishing or controlling : such it seems, I say, 
but since it bears with it change and tremendous 
change, it may well be that there is something 
more than mere loss in it : it will full surely 
destroy art as we know art, unless art newborn 
destroy it : yet belike at the worst it will destroy 


2 lo The Prospects of 

other things beside which are the poison of art, 
and in the long run itself also, and thus make 
way for the new art, of whose form we know 

Intelligent work is the child of struggling, hope- 
ful, progressive civilization : and its office is to add 
fresh interest to simple and uneventful lives, to 
soothe discontent with innocent pleasure fertile of 
deeds gainful to mankind ; to bless the many toiling 
millions with hope daily recurring, and which it 
will by no means disappoint. 

Imaginative work is the very blossom of civiliza- 
tion triumphant and hopeful ; it would fain lead 
men to aspire towards perfection : each hope that 
it fulfils gives birth to yet another hope : it bears 
in its bosom the worth and the meaning of life and 
the counsel to strive to understand everything, to 
fear nothing and to hate nothing : in a word 't is 
the symbol and sacrament of the Courage of the 

Now thus it stands to-day with these three kinds 
of work : Mechanical Toil has swallowed Intelli- 
gent Work and all the lower part of Imaginative 
Work, and the enormous mass of the very worst 
now confronts the slender but still bright array of 
the very best : what is left of art is rallied to its 
citadel of the highest intellectual art, and stands 
at bay there. 

At first sight its hope of victory is slender in- 
deed : yet to us now living it seems as if man had 

Architecture in Civilization. 211 

not yet lost all that part of his soul which longs 
for beauty : nay we cannot but hope that it is not 
yet dying. If we are not deceived in that hope, if 
the art of to-day has really come alive out of the 
slough of despond which we call the eighteenth 
century, it will surely grow and gather strength, 
and draw to it other forms of intellect and hope 
that now scarcely know it ; and then, whatever 
changes it may go through, it will at the last be 
victorious, and bring abundant content to mankind. 
On the other hand, if, as some think, it be but the 
reflection and feeble ghost of that glorious autumn 
which ended the good days of the mighty art of 
the Middle Ages, it will take but little killing : 
Mechanical Toil will sweep over all the handiwork 
of man, and art will be gone. 

I myself am too busy a man to trouble myself 
much as to what may happen after that : I can 
only say that if you do not like the thought of that 
dull blank, even if you know or care little for art, 
do not cast the thought of it aside, but think of it 
again and again, and cherish the trouble it breeds 
till such a future seems unendurable to you ; and 
then make up your minds that you will not bear it ; 
and, even if you distrust the artists that now are, 
set yourself to clear the way for the artists that 
are to come. We shall not count you among our 
enemies then, however hardly you deal with us. 

I have spoken of one most important part of 
that task ; I have prayed you to set yourselves 

212 The Prospects of 

earnestly to protecting what is left, and recovering 
what is lost of the Natural Fairness of the Earth : 
no less I pray you to do what you may to raise up 
some firm ground amid the great flood of mechani- 
I cal toil, to make an effort to win human and hope- 
' ful work for yourselves and your fellows. 

But if our first task of guarding the beauty of 
the Earth was hard, this is far harder, nor can I 
pretend to think that we can attack our enemy 
directly ; yet indirectly surely something may be 
done, or at least the foundations laid for some- 

For Art breeds Art, and every worthy work 
done and delighted in by maker and user begets 
a longing for more : and since art cannot be fash- 
ioned by mechanical toil, the demand for real art 
will mean a demand for intelligent work, which if 
persisted in will in time create its due supply — at 
least I hope so. 

I believe that what I am now saying will be well 
understood by those who really care about art, but 
to speak plainly I know that these are rarely to be 
found even among the cultivated classes : it must be 
confessed that the middle classes of our civilization 
have embraced luxury instead of art, and that we 
are even so blindly base as to hug ourselves on it, 
and to insult the memory of valiant peoples of past 
times and to mock at them because they were not 
encumbered with the nuisances that foolish habit 
has made us look on as necessaries. Be sure that 

Architecture in Civilization. 213 

we are not beginning to prepare for the art that is 
to be, till we have swept all that out of our minds, 
and are setting to work to rid ourselves of all 
the useless luxuries (by some called comforts) that 
make our stuffy art-stifling houses more truly sav- 
age than a Zulu*s kraal or an East Greenlander's 
snow hut. 

I feel sure that many a man is longing to set his 
hand to this if he only durst; I believe that there 
are simple people who think that they are dull to 
art, and who are really only perplexed and wearied 
by finery and rubbish : if not from these, \ is at 
least from the children of these that we may look 
for the beginnings of the building up of the art 
that is to be. 

Meanwhile, I say, till the beginning of new con- 
struction is obvious, let us be at least destructive 
of the sham art : it is full surely one of the curses 
of modern life, that if people have not time and 
eyes to discern or money to buy the real object of 
their desire, they must needs have its mechanical 
substitute. On this lazy and cowardly habit feeds 
and grows and flourishes mechanical toil and all 
the slavery of mind and body it brings with it : 
from this stupidity are born the itch of the public 
to over-reach the tradesmen they deal with, the 
determination (usually successful) of the tradesman 
to over-reach them, and all the mockery and flout- 
ing that has been cast of late (not without reason) 
on the British tradesman and the British work- 

214 The Prospects of 

man, — men just as honest as ourselves, if we 
would not compel them to cheat us, and reward 
them for doing it. 

Now if the public knew anything of art, that is 
excellence in things made by man, they would not 
abide the shams of it ; and if the real thing were 
not to be had, they would learn to do without, nor 
think their gentility injured by the forbearance. 

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not misery, 
but the very foundation of refinement : a sanded 
floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, 
and flowery meads, and living waters outside ; or 
a grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of 
housemaids always working to smear the dirt to- 
gether so that it may be unnoticed ; which, think 
you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentle- 
man of those two dwellings ? 

So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art, at 
least learn to hate sham art and reject it. It is 
not so much because the wretched thing is so ugly 
and silly and useless that I ask you to cast it from 
you ; it is much more because these are but the 
outward symbols of the poison that lies within 
them : look through them and see all that has gone 
to their fashioning, and you will see how vain labor, 
and sorrow, and disgrace have been their com- 
panions from the first, — and all this for trifles that 
no man really needs ! 

Learn to do without ; there is virtue in those 
words ; a force that rightly used would choke both 

Architecture in Civilization. 215 

demand and supply of Mechanical Toil : would 
make it stick to its last : the making of machines. 

And then from simplicity of life would rise up 
the longing for beauty, which cannot yet be dead 
in men's souls, and we know that nothing can 
satisfy that demand but Intelligent work rising 
gradually into Imaginative work ; which will turn all 
* operatives ' into workmen, into artists, into men. 

Now, I have been trying to show you how the 
hurry of Modern Civilization accompanied by the 
tyrannous organization of labor which was a ne- 
cessity to the full development of Competitive 
Commerce, has taken from the people at large, 
gentle and simple, the eyes to discern and the 
hands to fashion that popular art which was once 
the chief solace and joy of the world : I have asked 
you to think of that as no light matter but a griev- 
ous mishap : I have prayed you to strive to remedy 
this evil: first by guarding jealously what is left, 
and by trying earnestly to win back what is lost of 
the Fairness of the Earth ; and next by rejecting 
luxury, that you may embrace art, if you can, or if 
indeed you in your short lives cannot learn what 
art means, that you may at least live a simple life 
fit for men. 

And in all I have been saying, what I have been 
really urging on you is this ; Reverence for the life 
of Man upon the Earth : let the past be past, every 
whit of it that is not still living in us : let the dead 
bury their dead, but let us turn to the living, and 

2 1 6 The Prospects of 

with boundless courage and what hope we may, 
refuse to let the Earth be joyless in the days to 

What lies before us of hope or fear for this ? 
Well, let us remember that those past days whose 
art was so worthy, did nevertheless forget much of 
what was due to the Life of Man upon the Earth ; 
and so belike it was to revenge this neglect that 
art was delivered to our hands for maiming : to us, 
who were blinded by our eager chase of those 
things which our forefathers had neglected, and by 
the chase of other things which seemed revealed to 
us on our hurried way, not seldom, it may be for 
our beguiling. 

And of that to which we were blinded, not all 
was unworthy : nay the most of it was deep-rooted 
in men's souls, and was a necessary part of their 
Life upon the Earth, and claims our reverence 
still : let us add this knowledge to our other knowl- 
edge, and there will still be a future for the arts. 
Let us remember this, and amid simplicity of life 
turn our eyes to real beauty that can be shared by 
all : and then though the days worsen, and no rag 
of the elder art be left for our teaching, yet the 
new art may yet arise among us : and even if it 
have the hands of a child together with the heart 
of a troubled man, still it may bear on for us to 
better times the tokens of our reverence for the 
Life of Man upon the Earth. For we indeed freed 
from the bondage of foolish habit and dulling lux- 

Architecture in Civilization. 2 1 7 

ury might at last have eyes wherewith to see : and 
should have to babble to one another many things 
of our joy in the life around us : the faces of peo- 
ple in the streets bearing the tokens of mirth and 
sorrow and hope, and all the tale of their lives : the 
scraps of nature the busiest of us would come 
across ; birds and beasts and the little worlds they 
live in ; and even in the very town the sky above 
us and the drift of the clouds across it ; the wind's 
hand on the slim trees, and its voice amid their 
branches, and all the ever-recurring deeds of nature : 
nor would the road or the river winding past our 
homes fail to tell us stories of the country-side, 
and men's doings in field and fell. And whiles we 
should fall to muse on the times when all the ways 
of nature were mere wonders to men, yet so well 
beloved of them that they called them by men's 
names and gave them deeds of men to do : and 
many a time there would come before us memories 
of the deeds of past times, and of the aspirations of 
those mighty peoples whose deaths have made our 
lives, and their sorrows our joys. 

How could we keep silence of all this } and 
what voice could tell it but the voice of art : and 
what audience for such a tale would content us but 
all men living on the Earth ? 

This is what Architecture hopes to be : it will 
have this life, or else death ; and it is for us now 
living between the past anS the future to say 
whether it shall live or die. 



a dLiyllztiim of SEaleg m Uzxu. 

Parts I. and II. Vol. I. 

Prologue, March, April, May, June, July, and August, 
containing the Stories of — 
The Wanderers. The Writing on the Image. 

Atalanta's Race. The Love of Alcestis. 

The Man born to be King. The Lady of the Land. 

The Doom of King Acrisius. The Son of Croesus 

The Proud King. The W^atching of the Falcon, 

Cupid and Psyche. Pygmalion and the Image. 

Ogier the Dane. 

Part III. Vol. II. 
September, October, and November, containing the Stories of— 
The Death of Paris. The Man who Never Laughed 

The Land East of the Sun and Again. 

West of the Moon. The Story of Rhodope. 

Accontius and Cydippe. The Lovers of Gudrun. 

Part IV. Vol. III. 
December, January, and February, Epilogue, and L'Envoi, 
containing the Stories of — 
The Golden Apples. The Ring given to Venus. 

The Fostering of Aslaug. Bellerophon in Lycia. 

Bellerophon at Argos. The Hill of Venus. 

Popular edition. i2mo. Cloth. Price, ^4.50. 

The Life and Death of Jason. i6mo. Cloth. Price, $1.50, 

Love is Enough ; or, The Freeing of Pharamond. A Morality. 
Crown Svo. Cloth. Price, $1.50. i6mo. Cloth. Price, ;^i. 00. 

The Defence of Guenevere, and other Poems. Crown Svo. 
Price, ^2.00. 

The Story of Sigurd the Volsung, and the Fall of the Niblungs. 
Cloth. Price, ^2.00. 

The iEneids of Virgil. Done into English Verse. 
Cloth. Price, $2.00. 

Hopes and Fears for Art. i6mo. Cloth. Price, J1.25. 

News from Nowhere ; or, An Epoch of Rest. Being some chap- 
ters from a Utopian romance. With a drawing by Walter Crane, 
entitled " Labour^s May-Day." i6mo. Price, 60 cents. 

The Lovers of Gudrun. With Frontispiece from Design by 
Billings. i6mo. Price, $1.00. 

LONGMANS, GREEN & CO., Publishers, 
91 AND 93 Fifth Avenue, New York. 


The House of the Wolfings. A Tale of the House of the Wolfings 
and all the Kindreds of the Mark. Written in Prose and in 
Verse. i2mo. ^2.00. 

The story, which is in a strong Homeric vein that immediately commands and 
holds attention, takes us back to those far-off times when the Goths were contending 
with the Romans. It is written in both prose and verse, and is thereby made mere 
continuously interesting for the general reader than if it were a purely epic poem. It 
relates to a branch of the Gothic family who exhibited, particularly in their leader, 
Thiodolf, many noble examples of heroism and self-sacrifice. The narrative is 
pathetic, inspiring, and worthy of the author of ''The Earthly Paradise," and recalls 
a far-distant past with a picturesque fidelity that is far more impressive than the bald 
realism which too many believe now to be the highest art in story-telling It has an 
imaginative fervor, glow, and color which will cause it to be read and re-read by th.ose 
who wish to escape from the present into a world of romance and poetry. I'hisi 
literary jewel, w^ith its rich and appropriate setting, should be in the library of every 
genuine book-lover. — SaUirday Eveni7ig Gazette. 

The Story of the GHttering Plain. Which has been also called the 

Land of Living Men, or the Acre of the Undying. $i-50. 

William Morris comes to us again with another of his delightful " sagas,'* full of 
life and action and every essential human sentiment. He is a master of such produc- 
tion, and does not betray himself at any point by a false note or by false color. . . . 
The saga before us contains a story of happy life and prospective wedded joy broken 
in upon by capture, of a long and varied search for his loved one by the knight of the 
tale, of successful return from all dangers, and a final re-entrance into the hall of the 
kindred in " Cleveland by the Sea." . . This saga sings itself through from begin- 
ning to end in a beautiful melody. The prose of it is like music, and the little inter- 
ludes of song fit their places perfectly. The human life and circumstances of the saga 
are drawn from ancient Northern times, though no definite sphere is entered; and 
there is no attempt at historical suggestion, as in "The House of the Wolfings." 
This is simply a sweet, touching saga of a brave, patient, faithful human love. — 
Public Opinion. 

Poems by the Way. i2mo. $1.25. 

Those who feared that Mr. William Morris would be made less of a poet by his 
socialism have had ample reason to be disappointed. . . . The originality of this 
volume is that it contains several poems teUing us something which Mr. Morris has 
hardly told us in print before. . . . The whole volume not only betokens a splendid 
vitality of gift with surprises yet in store, but recalls at every turn that its author is 
one of a famous fraternity, of whom one other still survives, and who have been 
animated, despite all their differences, by a certain common spirit, and endowed with 
a similar cunning in the craft of song. — The Academy. 

The Wood Beyond the World. In a crown 8vo volume, printed 
on antique English paper, with decorative cover. Frontispiece 
by E. Burne-Jones. $2.50. 

The charm, or one of the charms, of this last book of his is more easily felt than 
described, and is only felt in the feelings, we think, by those who are enamoured of 
the invention which underlies all folk-lore, the element of fantasy, with or without a 
seeming purpose, containing in itself its excuse for being, and are enamoured at the 
same time of the simple, homely, idiomatic diction which characterized the early 
chroniclers and romancers, and of which Malory's '* Morte d' Arthur" is a fair 
example. At the age of sixtv, or thereabouts, he is still pouring out his lovely things, 
more full of the glory of youth, more full of romantic adventure and romantic love, 
than any of the beautiful poems in his first volume. By the side of this exhaustless 
creator of youthful and lovely things, the youngest of the poets who have just appeared 
above the horizon seems faded and jaded. — Mail and Express, 

LONCxMANS, GREEN & CO., Publishers, 
91 AND 93 Fifth Avenue, New York. 


chm N7445.M86X 
Hopes and fears for art.